Solar energy in the transition from fossil fuels

Today the largest portion of society’s energy consumption comes from coal and oil. Fossil fuels are becoming more and more expensive, and as different countries fulfill their commitments for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the share of renewable energy will increase such that it will represent the majority of the world’s energy supply within a few decades.

This transition is partly due to aging power plants being taken offline and not replaced with new ones, e.g. nuclear power plants in Germany. But it is also due to the world’s energy usage rapidly rising as living standards increase for billions of people in the developing world, and those people will need to get their energy needs covered primarily by renewable energy.

The transition that this will involve is much larger than many people understand. There are large amounts of money being invested in new sources of energy: an estimated SEK 5000 per person per year over the coming 20 years. In Sweden, this means SEK 10 billion annually.  In Europe, which has 500 million inhabitants, the volume of investment is SEK 500 billion per year. For larger properties and industries, the transition means that energy consumers will get a large portion of their energy from self-sustaining systems on their own roof.

The EU’s new building directives require “near-zero energy” for all new and renovated properties as of 2021, which in most cases means that the property will be self-sufficient with solar collectors on the roof and facades. In Spain and parts of Italy, legislation has already passed that mandates installation of solar collectors for new houses and buildings.

In terms of industry, energy-demanding processes that currently run on oil or gas will undergo fundamental efficiency measures, and the energy that is needed for production will come in part from solar energy systems on the roof of the factory. Solar concentrators can provide both heat, electricity and steam that can directly replace costly fuel.

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