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Renewable energy sees uplift as solar panel prices fall

A reduction in the cost of solar panels gives renewable energy a boost

A reduction in the cost of installing solar panels and other energy efficiency measures has seen the deployment of renewable energy soar.

That is the key finding of a new report carried out by renewable energy analyst Clean Edge, which highlights that global installations of solar photovoltaics expanded significantly in 2012.

The 12th annual edition of Clean Edge’s Clean Energy Trends report shows that 2012 was a tumultuous year for the clean energy market, but global solar installations still expanded to record levels.

Mixed fortunes

In all, revenue from solar technology, wind power and biofuels rose by one per cent in 2012 and now stands at £166 billion.

The caveat is that the industry is profiting less from solar power installations, as the price customers pay for installing the technology is falling; in 2011, revenue from solar voltaics was £61 billion, but this fell by 19% to £53 billion in 2012, in spite of increased take-up.

However, Ron Pernick, founder of Clean Edge, told the Guardian that he “always knew” that each doubling of solar PV installation would reduce prices by about 18%.

He went on to note that the solar industry has expanded massively over the last decade, with global revenues standing at just £1.7 billion in 2000 and costs falling every year; from £5 a watt at the turn of the millennium to £1.70 in 2012 – and as low as £1 a watt by 2017.

Renewable energy’s market share of new energy investments has increased massively, from just 1.1% in 2001 to 19% in 2012. At the same time, global wind capacity has increased and now surpasses natural gas investment in many nations, including the US, where renewable energy now comprises 49% of all new generating capacity.

The road ahead

Looking ahead, Clean Energy predicts that innovation will continue to improve the performance of renewable technologies, with the benefits passed on to the consumer.

People will not only pay less for renewable energy installations, but the industry’s reduced reliance on fossil fuels will mean that the decreasing cost of sourcing power will be passed on to the consumer through lower energy bills.

Together, the report predicts that the wind, solar and biofuels sectors will continue to grow over the next decade, almost doubling from £165 billion last year to £284 billion in 2022 as governments, industry and consumers place an increasing focus on renewable energy.