▶ GO NET-ZERO! ‘Carbon Neutrality’ in this century is not a choice but an essential challenge
The world is suffering severe pain and changes in all areas, ranging from economy to politics, society, and culture, due to the COVID-19 pandemic persisting for more than a year. Meanwhile, the impact of worsening climate change in recent years will grow more serious in the near future. It is an accepted fact that the major cause of the climate crisis is excessive carbon emissions caused by continued use of fossil fuels. Therefore, realization of a carbon-neutral, carbon-free society to combat climate change will no longer be a declarative agenda but a top-priority challenge this century.
To change the energy system for the achievement of carbon neutrality is the most important approach. One of the representative examples related to the impact of climate change on the energy system is the recent *rolling blackouts in Texas . As shown in Figure 1, most of the U.S. central region experienced extreme cold, and this in turn increased the demand for energy and created supply shortages. It also caused intense and widespread chaos in the energy market. The rolling blackouts occurred due to various issues related to power plant operation, inflicting enormous damage, and are continuing.
*Rolling blackout: Suspension of electrical power supply in some areas to prevent the collapse of the entire power grid caused by imbalances between demand and supply.
Recently, the IEA (International Energy Agency) presented several scenarios as it announced ‘Energy Technology Perspectives 2020,’ revealing its outlook on clean energy technologies . Among these scenarios, the Sustainable Development Scenario, a road map for meeting the global climate and energy targets, integrated the fundamental changes in energy system technology and infrastructure with the aspect of behavioral change. In addition, it presented methodology for converting the energy system all over the world to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. A scenario more progressive than this is the Faster Innovation Case, with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. It forecasts that the need for power production will increase by approximately 2.5 times compared to the present, and the annual renewable power capacity will require about four times the power output of 2019. The key to this scenario is that there is a need for the faster innovation of electrification, hydrogen, bioenergy, and CCUS (carbon capture, utilization and storage) technology.
▶ The rise of carbon neutrality sheds light on the solar power industry
The key to decarbonization is the use of clean electricity. According to the Sustainable Development Scenario, the share of electricity in end-use energy demand will increase from the current 20% to approximately 50% by 2070, and this may result in around a 20% CO2 emissions reduction. The total power demand in 2070 is forecast to increase to 30,000 TWh. Especially the use of clean power sources, including PV, wind power and other renewable energy, is expected to increase, and, among these, PV will play an important role as a key renewable energy source for the carbon-neutral era.
PV is the only mainstream power source where the cost of generation is continuously dropping. Furthermore, it is the representative distributed power that allows the construction of power plants of various sizes by connecting solar modules consisting of solar cells. The PV industry is one of the largest energy industries, with an extended value chain that links the manufacturing process from raw materials to solar cells, the designing, building and maintenance of PV modules, to financial asset management, which is in the spotlight nowadays.
In 2019, newly installed PV capacity was 115 GW globally, and capacity is forecast to be maintained at over 100 GW in 2020 for the fourth consecutive year. In Korea, the PV industry is receiving interest as a new growth engine in the energy sector, with 3.8 GW solar PV installed in 2019. The PV industry reached a tipping point after it went through a restructuring period in the early 2010s. Now, it has grown into a cash cow, entering the virtuous cycle for growth fueled by improving module output, decreasing power generation cost, increasing acceptability and expanding investment in production facilities and technology development. In the era of carbon neutrality, the global solar power industry will grow faster.
Figure 3. Building integrated photovoltaic modules installed on the outer wall of the Copenhagen International School in Denmark (Area of installation: 6,000 m2, Kromatix glass module, 700 kW photovoltaic system).
▶ Solar power transforming into various forms
Today the PV industry is shifting focus from simple rooftop modules and large power plants to markets encompassing floating solar power plants, building integrated PV and agricultural PV in order to develop distributed power sources responding to diverse environments. In addition, expansion of the applied products market is also anticipated; a photovoltaic sunroof is a representative example of this expansion. Thanks to the improvement in module output and flexibility through technology development, solar module products will become key automotive components for the e-mobility era. For example, the solar-roof system on the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has 200 W photovoltaic modules. Hence, this car can run up to 1,300 km longer per year based on the average amount of solar irradiation in Korea, with improvement in fuel efficiency and reduction in carbon emissions . These modules can be utilized as diverse exterior materials for e-mobility with the development and application of the opaque silicon photovoltaic sunroof, as well as semi-transparent thin-film modules, color modules , and high-power modules.
The development of diverse photovoltaic modules and high-power modules will increase the acceptability of solar power in our daily lives, which goes beyond the concept of a power plant to simply produce eco-friendly, clean energy. Changes in government policy will also be important. These changes will include granting rights for energy consumers to choose clean electricity and reforms in electricity pricing to reflect the decarbonization cost to prepare for trade restrictions related to decarbonization, such as a carbon border tax.
▶ Q CELLS, a global top-tier PV company
Q CELLS is taking the lead in the PV industry in Korea where competition has become fiercer. The company will also lead the way as a global top-tier company in the EPC area as well as in the module sector. In particular, Q CELLS is expected to grow continuously as a technology leader with innovative, proprietary technologies, including its Q.ANTUM technology, developed based on PERC to improve the efficiency of solar cells.
Solar energy is a major renewable energy source that can drive the transition to the hydrogen economy of scale through hydrogen production in the future and is a major means to implement a decarbonized society combatting climate change. In addition to realizing these social values, those who participate in industry-academia collaboration should be fully prepared to help bring a brighter future to the PV energy industry, led by Korea.
. Extreme winter weather is disrupting energy supply and demand, particularly in Texas, IEA, Feb. 19, 2021
. Energy Technology Perspectives 2020, IEA, November 2020
. Sonata Hybrid Model Highlights, Hyundai Motor Company (https://www.hyundai.com/kr/ko/e/vehicles/sonata-hybrid/intro).
. Inventory of Existing Business Models, Opportunities and Issues for BIPV, IEA PVPS, May 23, 2018