Photovoltaics as a Major Contributor to the Future Global Energy Needs and a 100 % Renewably Powered World

  • Winfried HoffmannEmail author


The following book chapter highlights photovoltaics as a major contributor to the future global energy needs. After analyzing the energy needs of today (140 PWh primary energy resulting in ~90 PWh secondary energy) and using a realistic energy efficiency increase by a factor of 3, the future energy needs for ~10 billion people are estimated (secondary energy ~150 PWh). Emphasis is given to the fact that unlike the situation of today where energy is unfairly distributed across the globe we should have for all future people a similar energy offering. By considering no other than renewable technologies, there is no need to discuss primary energy any longer. It is shown that by only considering sustainable offerings from all renewable technologies, more than 20 times of the needed future annual secondary energy is available. The portfolio of the most important renewable technologies (solar radiation (photovoltaics, heat and centralized electricity production), wind, and all other technologies (including biomass, hydro, geothermal, ocean, etc.)) has an astonishing split of 90 % solar, 9 % wind, and only 1 % for all others. Taking into account local conditions and optimization strategies, a pragmatic split is made of only 60 % solar (with three contributions of similar size: decentralized photovoltaics, solar heat for heating, cooling and medium process heat, as well as centralized electricity production by CSP (concentrated solar power) and CPV (concentrated photovoltaics)), 20 % wind and 20 % all other renewable sources. The challenges by integrating such high shares of variable energy sources (like PV and wind) are described and solutions discussed. The competitiveness of photovoltaics compared to traditional sources like fossil and nuclear is demonstrated by using price experience curves including cost-efficient electricity storage. It is shown that the integration of variable renewable energy sources with a high share of a country's annual electricity needs is economically feasible by choosing the right portfolio of complementing renewable technologies and various levels of storage. In summary photovoltaics (and also the other renewable technologies) will serve the future energy needs more cost efficiently, environmentally friendly and with a much higher degree of security of supply for everyone compared to the current technologies.


Primary energy Secondary energy End-user energy Energy efficiency Renewables Photovoltaics Battery storage Price Experience Curve Levelized Cost of Energy and Service Climate change Sustainable renewable energy offering PV technology PV markets Electricity load curve 

List of Abbreviations


Asia-Pacific (region)


German Solar Economy Association (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft


Compound average growth rate


Carbon capture and storage (also called CSS = carbon sequestration and storage)


Chief executive officer (chairman of management board of a company)


Renewable Energy Sources Act (FiT in Germany)


European Photovoltaic Industry Association since spring 2015 renamed to SolarPower Europe


Feed-in tariff


Greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, water vapor, etc.)


International Energy Agency


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics


Levelized Cost of Energy or Electricity (Service or Storage)




Power-to-gas ((renewable) electricity → hydrogen by electrolysis → CH4)


Renewable energy (systems)


Rest of World


Research and development


Stein Kohle Einheit (hard coal equivalent)


Small and medium enterprises


United Nations


Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der deutschen Bundesregierung für globale Umweltveränderungen (Advisory Board to the German Government on Global Change to the Environment)


World Energy Outlook (by IEA)


World Meteorological Organization



The author would like to thank Christophe Pillot from Avicenne (Paris) for providing the battery data for Figs. 4.124.16 and Markus Fischer from Hanwha Q Cells for kindly calculating the logistic growth curve in Fig. 4.18. Figure 4.8 is with permission of ITRPV (Stefan Raithel). Figures 4.14.4, 4.6, 4.19, and 4.20 are with permission of Scrivener Publishing (Wiley) [15].


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Solar Expertise - ASEHanauGermany

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