JifanGao on the Solar Future at the World Energy Congress

The 22nd World Energy Congress is held in Daegu, South Korea from October 13 to 17, 2013. The world’s largest energy event worldwide, the congress devote itself to discussing critical issues under the theme “Securing Tomorrow’s Energy Today.” Trina Solar was invited to join the Chinese delegation to the congress, and CEO JifanGao gave remarks in the plenary session on the 14th, another speakerwas the Minister of Energy for UAE. On 15thGao joined the World Energy CEO Roundtable as a discussion leader facilitating a dialogue on global energy structure transformation together with around 50 CEOs from major energy companies, utility, research organizations, and NGOs, including the CEO of EON, Siemens Energy, etc. JifanGao also had fruitful discussions with stakeholders from the public and private sector and visited the energy exhibition during his stay in South Korea.

The World Energy Congress is held every three years. The 22nd session is hosted by the World Energy Council and the WEC Korean Member Committee and organized by the WEC Daegu 2013 Organizing Committee. This is the second time in its 90 years history that the event is held in Asia. More than 5000 participants from about 100 countries participated. Under the theme of “Securing Tomorrow’s Energy Today,” this premier global energy forum aims to provide delegates with a high-level exclusive and informative programme featuring addresses by government ministers, chief executives, and experts from around the world.  


The text of Gao’s remarks delivered in the plenary session on the Solar Future follow:
Solar is the Future
Solar Energy is a very young member of the world energy family.  By end of 2012 cumulative global solar installations will be around 80 GW which translates to around 2% out of  global electricity installation. However new installations for 2013 will reach 35 GW, and 40GW are forecasted for 2014. At of the rate of 1% growth of global energy infrastructure by 2020, solar will account for more than 10% of global energy installations, and further grow to 30% by 2030.

Solar PV has three main advantages. Firstly is its accessibility: solar power is the basic energy source for human beings, and one hour solar energy reaching to the earth is enough for one year’s energy consumption of the whole world. Almost every country could roughly satisfy its energy demand by putting solar panels on idle land and rooftops. Secondly is sustainability:  Solar energy is clean and emission-free during power generation. The energy consumed during the whole process to manufacture solar products and build solar systems could be repaid in less than 1.5 years and the system can deliver 25 years or more of reliable power generation. Silicon as its main raw material is found almost everywhere. Thirdly is that solar is distributed energy.  In traditional power generation systems, power generation is usually in the form of centralized power plants transmitting electricity to end users through the grid.  For distributed solar systems on commercial and residential rooftops, systems can be installed and consumed directly on the spot.

Challenges remains in three areas: Firstly is its inconsistency. Weather can impact the productivity of solar systems on rainy days, and now power is generated at night. Solar requires complementary storage or alternative generation in the system to deliver consistent power. Storage requires a breakthrough to reduce the costs. Secondly solar has a cost slightly higher than other forms of power. Nevertheless, in the past 7 to 8 years thanks to technological innovation and economies of manufacturing scale, its cost has been reduced by 75%, and a further 50% reduction could be expected by 2020. A final challenge is the potential distribution of solar systems. Since solar can be installed almost everywhere, tens of millions of solar systems can be built in every country. Integration of these distributed systems will require a smart grid unlike the existing centralized grid. To achieve this key driver is innovation.

Solar power should be the first priority and fossil fuels can be reserved for long term use. This will also help reduce CO2 emissions. Different regions could choose different strategies based on their own situation. For developed regions like Europe where energy supply is not an issue but sustainability and economic efficiency top the agenda, countries like Germany has set a goal to have 95% renewable energy by 2050. For developing countries such as China and India where growing energy supply is the key to fuel economic and social growth and support energy infrastructure transformation, renewables are also important. China has set a new solar installation target for 2013 at 10GW and plans to install 10-15GW in the following years annually, which means by 2020 its cumulative solar installations will reach 100-150GW and account for 10% of total energy installations. For developing regions such as Africa with underdeveloped grid infrastructure, solar is a feasible and economical choice for distributed small solar systems paired with mini-grid or micro-grids and complemented by other energy sources such as gas or diesel generation.

Commercialization of solar in force 1997 partly driven by the Kyoto Protocol, this was also when Trina Solar was founded. An industry with a history of 15 years is very much like a teenager who is still young and need support and help. Nowadays we see grid parity already happening in countries like Italy, Spain and Australia. We expect that by 2020 most countries will reach grid parity and at that time all subsidies can be ended. To achieve this vision governments worldwide should continue appropriate incentives for solar to push the technology toward grid parity as early as possible. Global public and private partnerships need to be strengthened for a better collaboration in reaching this vision. We shall embrace free trade and firmly oppose trade protectionism. It is also of the best interests of companies in the traditional energy sector to join efforts in supporting the development of renewable energy and solar to form a new energy system composed of both traditional and renewable energy under a unified structure. Such structure will enable the sustainability of human habitation and improve global ecosystems, stopping global competition for energy. With this vision I call for the public and private sector on this planet to join their efforts in investing and developing renewable energy for the sake of a better future - a peaceful future of the whole human beings.