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Solar Energy Could Pass Fossil Fuels by 2050, IEA Says

There is light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to solar energy, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). In a report released on Monday, the agency said that solar energy could conceivably pass fossil fuels to become the largest source of electricity by 2050. To be clear, it's not a forecast. Instead, the IEA crunched the numbers to find the most optimistic scenario possible. It found that, together, solar photovoltaic systems and solar thermal electricity could provide 27 percent of the world's energy by the middle of the century, with fossil fuels only accounting for 12 percent to 20 percent. Today, fossil fuels provide 68 percent of our power, with all renewable energy, including wind and biomass, providing just 20 percent. How could solar make the jump? Solar panels costs have already dropped around 80 percent over the last five years, a trend that could continue into the future. The big challenge will be making solar thermal electricity — which involves concentrating sunlight to heat up a liquid to create steam — more advanced and less expensive. In a statement, IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven called the path detailed in the report "very capital intensive" and encouraged market reforms and tax subsidies.

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— Keith Wagstaff