US researchers say The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has underestimated the importance of photovoltaic solar energy, claiming the technology could provide up to 50 per cent of the world's electricity needs by 2050.
The costs of solar energy have not only dropped much faster than expected, but solar energy has been adopted at much higher rates, too. For these reasons it has had a much bigger impact on mitigating climate change than was predicted.
The IPCC's fifth assessment report emphasises the importance of bioenergy and carbon capture and storage for achieving climate goals, but it leaves solar energy out as a strategically important technology option, researchers say.
"That is surprising given the strong growth, large resource, and low environmental footprint of photovoltaics," they say.
An in-depth analysis shows renewable energy models have consistently underestimated PV deployment.
"We propose that with coordinated advances in multiple components of the energy system, PV could supply 30-50 per cent share in the world's electricity generation by 2050."