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Latin America and the Caribbean could grow their installed solar capacity by a factor of 40 by 2050, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows.

Annual investments exceeding seven billion would see the region's solar PV capacity rise from 7GW today, to more than 280GW by mid-century.

According to IRENA's report “Future of Solar Photovoltaic,” by that time, solar PV would represent the second-largest power source behind wind.

In total, global solar power capacity would rise from 480GW in 2018 to over 8,000GW by 2050, growing by nearly 9% every year.

“Solar PV and other renewables sources represent the most effective and ready solution for addressing growing energy demand and limiting carbon emission at the same time,” said IRENA’s director-general Francesco La Camera.

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La Camera continued: “Renewables are practical, affordable and climate-safe. They are key to sustainable development, enabling energy access, spurring economic growth, creating employment and improving health. Particularly solar energy is set to become one of the most prominent power sources in 2050. Projected growth rates in markets like Latin America showcase that we can extend the energy transition to all countries. It’s possible.”

If accompanied by sound policies, the transformation driven by renewables such as solar can bring substantial socioeconomic benefits, IRENA’s new report finds. The global solar industry has the potential to employ over 18 million people by 2050, four times more than the 4.4 million jobs today.

Over the last decade, installed capacity of off-grid solar PV has grown more than tenfold, from roughly 0.25GW in 2008 to almost 3GW in 2018 around the world.

With its modular and flexible nature, solar PV technology can be adapted to a wide range of off-grid applications and to local conditions. Indeed, off-grid solar PV is a key technology for achieving universal electricity access, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Similarly, the deployment of rooftop solar PV systems has increased extensively, which today makes solar PV in some markets more attractive than buying electricity from the grid. The competitiveness of distributed solar power is clearly raising deployment in large markets, including Brazil, China, Germany and Mexico.

Statistical highlights

  • Accelerating solar PV can cut energy-related CO2 emissions by 21% in 2050.
  • The Latin American market would grow from 7GW in 2018 to over 280GW.
  • Global levelised cost of electricity for solar PV will continue to fall from an average of $85 cents per kWh in 2018 to between $5-14 cents per kWh by 2050.
  • Due to innovations, solar PV remains a fast-evolving industry. Floating PV is one of the most prominent examples with global cumulative installed capacity exceeding 1GW in 2018. Battery storage and electric vehicles are key solutions to support the grid and manage high shares of solar PV as well as to guarantee the flexibility of the power system.