Global solar energy capacity may reach 980 gigawatts by 2020 as governments worldwide seek to reduce fossil fuel consumption and cut emissions of greenhouse gases, a group of renewable energy associations said.

Development of photovoltaic and solar thermal power projects will cut emissions of carbon dioxide by about 570 million tons over the decade, the equivalent of shutting down 100 coal-fueled power plants or taking 110 million cars off the road, according to a report released in Cancun, Mexico, today by the Washington-based Solar Energy Industries Association.

The report took place as United Nations envoys in Cancun consider whether to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to cut man-made emissions of carbon dioxide that scientists say contribute to global warming. The trade group of 21 associations from around the world urged governments to include solar energy incentives as part of the effort to address climate change.

“The capital needed to manufacture that much capacity is staggering,” said Nancy Hartsoch, vice president of marketing at SolFocus Inc., a Palo Alto, California-based maker of concentrating photovoltaic panels. “And because solar hasn’t reached grid-parity in most regions, that kind of deployment would require stronger policies than we’ve got in place now.”

The solar groups plan to discuss their report, which includes development profiles for 20 countries and the European Union, during a Dec. 6 presentation in Cancun.

For the U.S., boosting total solar capacity to 139 gigawatts, as the report predicts, would account for 4.9 percent of the country’s total output, add 683,0000 jobs and help reduce the cost of electricity to $2.32 a watt from $5.71 today.

The report shows that combined world targets for solar electric capacity will reach 700 gigawatts and solar thermal capacity will reach 280 gigawatts (GWth, thermal equivalent) by 2020. This level would reduce carbon pollution by 570 megatons, equivalent to shutting down more than 100 coal plants.

The global solar industry, as part of the industry’s efforts at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP16) in Cancun, today released its 2010 edition of "Seizing the Solar Solution: Combating Climate Change through accelerated deployment." Highlights of the report will be presented at an official side-event, Monday, Dec. 6, 15:00 to 16:30 at the Cancun Messe.

This solar coalition, comprised of more than 40 leading international solar and renewable energy organizations, is demonstrating the immediate potential of the accelerated deployment of solar energy in reducing harmful pollution, combating climate change and creating jobs and economic impact. The group is urging political and business leaders to take action now to accelerate solar deployment.

The report shows that combined world targets for solar electric capacity will reach 700 gigawatts and solar thermal capacity will reach 280 gigawatts (GWth, thermal equivalent) by 2020. This level would reduce carbon pollution by 570 megatons, equivalent to shutting down more than 100 coal plants.

"Today, the sun offers us a unique way of generating electricity on a global scale, making it possible to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with the added benefit of being socially responsible, generating jobs and supporting sustainable development locally," said Adel El Gammal, Secretary General of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). "Government representatives in Cancun should advocate for a clear shift away from conventional fuels to solar energy. This will allow developing nations to leapfrog past conventional energy dependency to a clean and unlimited source that can also easily reach under‐served populations in rural areas."

"Deploying solar energy presents a concrete measure for our nations’ leaders to reduce harmful pollution now," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the US‐based Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). "With the right policies, our government leaders can accelerate the adoption of solar reducing CO2 emissions equivalent to taking 110 million cars off the road."

The report also identifies key policies the global solar industry supports in combating climate change. They include:
• Establishing a price on carbon to ensure a level playing and field and factor externalities into the costs of fossil fuels;
• Setting internationally agreed mid-term and long-term emission reduction targets for all developed countries;
• Ending the massive subsidies given to fossil fuel industries;
• Ensuring that renewable energy targets set by developing countries qualify as Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs); and
• Developing an international financing framework to encourage technology transfer and investment in solar projects worldwide.

The full report is available at

In preparation for the UN summit, an online petition has been launched and hundreds of people from across the planet have already signed it. After COP16, the Solar Petition will be sent to key political leaders in charge of making the decisions that will affect the future well‐being of our world and the people who live in it. Together with the petition and the list of supporters, they will receive a Solar Dancing Flower to remind them of the power of the Sun. All the funds generated from the production of these solar flowers will be donated to Solar Solidarity, an NGO active in the promotion of projects for the developing world using renewable technology, solar in particular.

Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA is working to build a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to make solar a mainstream and significant energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy.