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Last updated: 16 November 2023

Global Solar Energy Trends in 2024: Facts and Forecasts

Solar panels are the most popular solar energy collection method.

As the global shift towards renewable energy continues, the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry is experiencing unprecedented growth. With impressive statistics to back it up, the solar PV industry has solidified its position as a critical player in the transition to clean and sustainable energy sources.

This is evident in the evolution of solar panel efficiency over time. In the 1960s, Hoffman Electric achieved 14% photovoltaic (PV) cell efficiency. By 2015, companies like SolarCity and Panasonic announced efficiencies of over 22%. As of 2023, most commercial panels have 17% to 20% efficiencies, but researchers have developed PV cells with efficiencies approaching 50%

Solar technologies are becoming more efficient every year, and this trend is expected to continue as research and development in this field progresses. Solar energy is expected to be an infinite source of energy that creates no harmful greenhouse gas emissions, making it an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. 

The growth of solar energy is expected to continue, with some projections estimating that global solar installations could reach 4.7 terawatts by 2050.

Global solar photovoltaic statistics and facts

The statistics surrounding the solar PV industry are awe-inspiring. Solar PV installations have also substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, solar PV systems installed in 2020 alone helped to avoid approximately 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. This is equivalent to taking over 560 million cars off the road for a year.

The global cumulative installed solar PV capacity surge is a testament to the world’s growing commitment to renewable energy. According to Statista, as of 2022, the global cumulative solar PV capacity amounted to 1,177 gigawatts, with approximately 239 gigawatts of new PV capacity installed that same year. 

This is a substantial increase from 2003 when the global cumulative installed solar PV capacity was less than 2.6 gigawatts. 

Solar PV technology has seen significant growth and development over the years, and it is expected to continue growing in the future due to its numerous advantages, including its abundance, renewability, and cleanliness.

Here is the overview of the statistics of the solar industry according to IEA and Statista

  1. The global photovoltaic (PV) solar capacity is expected to reach 1.3 terawatts (TW) by 2023
  1. Global solar photovoltaic capacity has grown from around five gigawatts in 2005 to approximately 940 gigawatts in 2021
  1. Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth
  1. Solar panels are made of large amounts of aluminium, copper, and glass, and 90%–97% of solar panel materials can be recycled and reused for other purposes when they break down
  1. Solar energy users save about 35 tons of CO2 emissions and 75 million barrels of oil yearly
  1. Utility-scale PV power plants accounted for 70% of total solar electricity generation in 2022.
  1. Expected global growth rate of 27% between 2021 and 2031
  1. 90%–97% of solar panel materials can be recycled and reused for other purposes when they break down
  1. Most panels today are between 15% and 20% efficient. Meaning they can convert the same amount of energy.
  1. China produces the most solar power in the world, at 306.9 gigawatts, followed by the United States (95.9), Japan (74.2), Germany (58.5), and India (49.7).
  1. Solar panels are the most popular method of collecting solar energy, and US solar power generation reached 145.6 terawatt hours in 2022.
  1. The smart solar power market is projected to reach approximately £36.25 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 13.6%.
  1. In the UK, more than 17,000 households installed solar panels every month in 2023
  1. Solar photovoltaic production increased 23% from 2019 to 2020, and it’s now the third-largest renewable electricity source worldwide, accounting for a significant portion of renewable energy production.
  1. The global solar roofing industry is anticipated to generate approximately £183.62 billion by 2031, witnessing a CAGR of 15.1% from 2022 to 2031.
  1. Solar is the fastest-growing source of electricity for the 18th consecutive year, rising by 24% year-on-year and adding enough power to meet the annual electricity demand of South Africa.

Solar energy growth and capacity

The solar PV industry has witnessed remarkable growth over the years, driven by advancements in technology, government incentives, and increased awareness of the environmental benefits of solar energy. According to recent data, the solar PV market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 20% between 2021 and 2026.

One of the key drivers of this growth is the declining prices of solar panels. However, this may not be the case in most countries, as the United Kingdom (UK) has witnessed a surprising price rise in solar panels. 

This hit started after Corona 2021 and rose on average from £1,370 to £2,061. 

Here is an overview of the price increase over the last two years in the UK:

System sizeSystem price 2021System price 2023Price increase %Projected installations 2023
4 kW£6.471£10,42061%141.180
10 kW£14.810£22,61053%59.088
10-50 kW£50.550£65,85030%5.304

As technology improves and economies of scale are realised, the cost of producing solar panels will significantly decrease. This will make solar PV installations more affordable and accessible to a broader range of consumers. Additionally, advancements in solar PV technology, such as developing more efficient solar cells and improved energy storage solutions, have increased solar PV systems’ overall efficiency and reliability. 

In 2022, the global cumulative solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity amounted to 1,177 gigawatts (GW), with approximately 239 GW of new PV capacity installed in the same year, with a 24% growth of new installations.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable capacity will meet 35% of global power generation by 2025. The IEA foresees solar PV to reach 4.7 terawatts (4,674 GW) by 2050 in its high-renewable scenario, of which more than half will be deployed in China and India, making solar power the world’s largest source of electricity. This growth is expected to continue, with the International Energy Agency projecting that solar PV will account for 4.5% of total global electricity generation.

Comparison between the number of installed solar PV in 2021 and 2022 represents a significant increase in solar energy capacity, demonstrating the rapid growth of this renewable energy source.

Solar Power Growth and Capacity

YearGlobal Cumulative Solar PV Capacity (GW)New PV Capacity Installed (GW)Solar Power Growth (%)
202193823925.23
20221,17723924

This growth is expected to continue as the cost of solar power installation decreases and as more regions increase their solar capacity.

Solar energy jobs and economic impact

Solar PV installations have created jobs and stimulated economic growth. The industry employs over 3 million people globally, with a significant portion of these jobs in installation, manufacturing, and project development. As the industry continues to grow, the demand for skilled workers in the solar PV sector is expected to increase.

According to a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the renewable energy sector employed 13.7 million people worldwide in 2022, with solar energy being the fastest-growing sector, providing 4.9 million jobs. The report also highlights that domestic market size is a significant factor influencing employment generation in renewables, along with labour and other costs. 

The solar industry is expected to nearly triple in cumulative deployment by 2028, creating more job opportunities and contributing to economic growth. It is projected to be the source of 14 million jobs by 2030.

Women’s participation in solar PV is notably higher than in other renewable energy sectors. As of 2021, women accounted for 40% of the total workforce in the solar PV industry. This is significantly higher than the average share of women employed in all renewable sectors, which stands at 32% and almost double that of women employed in the wind industry (21%) and the oil and gas sector (22%). 

The representation of women varies across different segments within the solar PV industry. Women fare best in solar PV manufacturing, representing 47% of the workforce. Service providers and developers follow with 39% and 37% respectively. However, the representation of women is lowest among solar PV installers, who make up only 12% of the workforce. 

However, despite these promising figures, there is still a need to improve gender balance in the industry further. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) emphasizes the importance of education and training programs to prevent the widening of skill gaps and to tap talent among under-represented groups, including women.

Global solar energy-related jobs by top country

solar energy job creation

The solar industry has grown from 17,000 employees in 2005 to nearly 174,000 in 2020. By 2022, solar photovoltaics (PV) will become the largest employer of labour in the world. This expansion has led to significant job creation and economic impact, and as solar energy continues to expand, more jobs will be created, and the industry will contribute even more to the global economy.

This is because women are disproportionately impacted by climate change and have valuable perspectives, experiences, and knowledge to build community and national resilience. 

The following table represents the gender distribution in different segments of the solar PV industry:

SegmentWomenMen
Overall Solar PV Industry40%60%
Solar PV Manufacturing47%53%
Service Providers39%61%
Developers37%63%
Solar PV Installers12%88%

This table shows the representation of women and men in different segments of the solar PV industry. Women account for 40% of the total solar PV workforce, with the highest representation in solar PV manufacturing (47%). The lowest representation of women is among solar PV installers, who make up only 12% of the workforce.

Solar power production by country

The countries below represent approximately 74% of the photovoltaic market worldwide. It is important to note that the European Union (EU) would have the second-highest solar capacity in the world at 178,7 MW if it were a single country.

It is important to note that China has the highest solar power capacity in the world, with 430 GW of solar capacity as of April 2023. 

The United States has set a solar power target of installing 215 GW capacity by 2030.

On the other hand, Japan has set a goal of achieving a carbon-neutral society by 2050, with solar power playing a significant role in achieving this goal. 

Germany has been a leader in renewable energy for many years and aims to generate 65% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

India aims to achieve 100 GW of solar power capacity by 2022.

The following table shows the amount of solar power produced by each country in megawatts (MW):

CountrySolar Power Produced (MW)
China306,973
United States95,209
Japan74,191
Germany58,461
India49,684

It’s important to note that these figures represent the capacity for solar power production, not the actual amount produced. The production can vary based on weather conditions and the time of day.

In the United States, the solar industry installed 5.6 gigawatts-direct current (GWdc) of capacity in the second quarter of 2023, a 20% increase from Q2 2022. The cumulative solar capacity installed through the first half of 2023 is 153 GWdc, expected to grow to 375 GWdc by the end of 2028.

In the United Kingdom, the solar power market is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.53% over the next five years. As of May 2023, the United Kingdom registered 15.1 GW of solar capacity across 1,334,453 installations, an increase of 6.4% (911 MW) since May 2022. The country has ambitious solar power targets to reach 40GW installed capacity by 2030.

Solar market insight report

The global solar energy market was valued at approximately £67.8 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow to around £161.9 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of roughly 11.5% between 2023 and 2030. This is driven by technological advancements, falling costs, and increasing environmental awareness. 

As of May 2023, the United Kingdom has 15.1 GW of solar capacity across 1,334,453 installations, marking an increase of 6.4% (911 MW) since May 2022. This is the highest annual increase seen since December 2017. The UK solar power market is segmented by end-user into residential, commercial and industrial, and utilities. 

The National Grid anticipates a fivefold increase in solar PV generation in the UK, from 14GW to roughly 70GW by 2030. 

Current cost of solar panels

The cost of solar panels in the UK can range from £5,000 to £11,000, depending on the size of the system and other factors. A standard 250W solar panel in 2023 costs £400-£500, but this can vary depending on the type and size of the whole system. The average cost of a solar battery is £4,500

Here is a breakdown of the estimated costs for each household size:

House SizeEstimated CostsSystem Size
One-bedroom flat£5,000 – £6,0003kW panel system
1-2 bedroom house£6,000 – £8,0004kW panel system
3 bedroom house£8,000 – £9,0005kW panel system
4-5 bedroom house£9,000 – £11,0006kW panel system

Market outlook as of 2023

The solar energy market is expected to grow by 41% in 2023. The US solar market installed 6.1 GWdc of capacity in Q1 2023, a 47% increase from Q1 2022 and a 19% decrease from Q4 2022. The US solar industry is expected to nearly triple in size between 2023 and 2028, adding 236 GWdc to an installed base of 142 GWdc.

This means the solar market is expected to grow significantly in the coming year. The UK solar power market is projected to grow steadily, aiming to reach 40GW installed capacity by 2030. 

The global solar market is also expected to grow, with record highs in the volume of installations and new lows in the price of modules. The price of standard solar modules hit an all-time low of 16.5 US cents per watt in August 2023, and it is expected to fall further by the end of the year.

Increasingly, large and small solar plants worldwide are being paired with storage. This is mandated in several Chinese provinces and written into auctions in many other countries.

In the US, the solar industry is expected to nearly triple in size between 2023 and 2028, adding 236 GWdc to an installed base of 142 GWdc (as of year-end 2022). 

These projections suggest that solar energy could account for as much as 20% of the total electricity generation. The demand for solar power in the European Union rose by 37%, which could be related to the approaching final of the 2020 EU targets for renewable energy.

However, the market faces supply chain disruptions, rising costs, and project delays. Despite these challenges, the industry is expected to experience robust growth due to soaring demand and attractive long-term incentives.

Solar panel efficiency and sustainability

Solar panel efficiency is the percentage of incoming sunlight that a single solar panel can convert into electricity. The most efficient solar panels available today are 22.8% efficient, while the most efficient solar cells developed by scientists offer 39.5% efficiency. 

“Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on Earth,” according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Solar energy is a clean and sustainable energy source that creates no harmful greenhouse gas emissions, making it an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. 

The average efficiency of solar panels is between 15% and 20%, with outliers on either side of the range. Higher-efficiency panels are more expensive but can help meet energy needs, especially in limited roof space or shading cases. 

The demand for solar energy is increasing worldwide. According to Statista, the global demand for solar photovoltaic (PV) will reach 1,000 GW by 2023. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that solar PV will become the largest source of electricity generation by 2035, with a capacity of 16% of global electricity generation. Solar PV will account for 4.5% of global electricity generation by 2050. 

As solar energy infrastructure expands, more efficient solar panels will be developed, leading to further growth in solar energy production.

Solar panel efficiency

Solar Panel BrandPanel ModelEfficiency (%)
SunPowerM Series22.8
Canadian SolarHiHero22.8
RECAlpha Pure 22.7
PanasonicEverVolt22.5

While solar energy is a clean and sustainable energy source, there are concerns about the sustainability of solar panels. Solar panels contain small amounts of valuable materials, such as silver, but they are mostly made of glass, a highly low-value material. The long lifespan of solar panels also disincentives innovation in recycling and end-of-life management. 

However, solar energy is still a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. To stay on a pathway limiting global warming to 1.5°C, annual renewable power capacity additions must grow three times the current level by 2030. IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook shows that tripling renewable power capacity until 2030 and beyond will get us back on track. 

Future trends in solar PV

Solar energy is expected to play a significant role in the future of energy production, with the most efficient solar panels available on the market having an efficiency rate of 22.8%. The latest developments and breakthroughs in solar technology include longer-lasting solar cells, solar cells that you can print onto flexible surfaces, solar panels that track the sun from east to west throughout the day, and solar power plants that work at night. 

To catch up with this, more than sixty countries need to generate more than 15% of their electricity from solar. This could provide 45% of the electricity by 2050 if the energy system is fully decarbonised. Globally, this would imply a 68% increase in average annual solar PV investment from now until 2050 (to USD 192 billion/yr). Solar PV investment stood at USD 114 billion/yr in 2018. 

Today, solar PV penetration of electricity production per country has seen a significant rate of 10% in 2022 from nine countries. Spain topped the list with 19%, followed by Greece (17.5%), Chile (17%), and the Netherlands (15.9%). This means that PV contribution amounted to 6.2% of the electricity demand in the world in total, while the penetration rates of the EU and China were only 8.7% and 6.5%, respectively. 

Table: Projected Global Trends in Solar PV (2023-2033)

YearProjected Solar PV Capacity (GW)Projected Solar PV Installations (GW)Projected Solar PV Penetration (%)Projected Investment in Solar PV (£ billion)
20231,1852406.296.3
20282,012.527010.6129.2
20332,84030015.0162.1

Integrating solar PV with renewable energy sources, such as wind and hydro, will also become more prevalent. This hybrid approach allows for a more reliable and consistent energy supply, minimising the impact of intermittency.

Furthermore, the increasing adoption of innovative grid technologies will enable better integration of solar PV into the existing energy infrastructure. These technologies allow for real-time monitoring and control of energy flows, optimising the use of solar electricity and improving overall grid stability.

Solar PV is poised to play a significant role in shaping a more sustainable future, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Inemesit Ukpanah
Written by Inemesit Ukpanah, Writer

Inemesit is a seasoned content writer with 9 years of experience in B2B and B2C. Her expertise in sustainability and green technologies guides readers towards eco-friendly choices, significantly contributing to the field of renewable energy and environmental sustainability.

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