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SunPower: Solar Energy To Be $5 Trillion Industry Within 20 Years

The leadership of one of the largest solar PV manufacturers in the world, SunPower, is banking on the rather blunt predication that the solar energy industry will become a $5 trillion dollar industry within only 20 years, according to recent statements.

The company’s head, Tom Werner, made the prediction at the company’s recent day-long annual briefing in San Jose, California — also noting that the industry’s expected growth represents one of the best opportunities in the history of markets.

Commenting on this potential opportunity, Werner stated: “We’ve just scratched the surface of this opportunity. I’ve been doing this for eleven years, and I’ve realised we’re just beginning.”

Given the recent closing of the US–China climate change deal, extra weight certainly does seem to be added to Werner’s comments — for the targets to be met, solar buildout is going to have to really pick up steam over the next few years.

On that note: China is going to have to install 1,000 GW (one million MW) of new renewable energy capacity by 2030 in order to meet its current targets — roughly 1300 MW a week.

RenewEconomy provides more on this SunPower news:

Below are two key graphs from Werner’s presentation. The first is the where the solar industry is now and where it has come from.

It is barely a scratch of the surface of the global electricity industry, at less than one per cent of total electricity demand, but it’s impact is already clear – particularly in developed countries where it is displacing fossil fuels, and in developing countries, where it is offering a cheaper, unsubsidised alternative.

SunPower chart

But this is where the industry is heading. It pretty much conforms with much of the mainstream predictions such as that from the International Energy Agency and IRENA.

SunPower graph


(It would have been nice if the two graphs above had the same scale, but nonetheless….)

This is all more or less consistent with the predictions of prominent investment banks, like Alliance Bernstein — which recently noted that “solar has appeared, like a lightning bolt from the sky,” now competing with “diesel fuels everywhere, imported LNG in Asia, and gas” in various developed economies. Rather than a lighting bolt, perhaps they could have said, “like the sun rising in the morning.” Just a thought.

Werner’s predictions, though, are based mostly on a presumed big shift at the household level. The graph below illustrates his point:

home solar SunPower

The expectation is that over the next 20 or so years home solar will grow to cover another 150 million homes — thereby accounting for roughly 10% of total electricity supplied.

Bold predictions. As always though, time will tell.

Werner also noted that SunPower will in the future no longer be “simply” a manufacturer of solar panels and builder of projects, but also a services provider.


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Image Credit: SunPower

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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