Floating photovoltaic power plant in Haltern am See

Column – The next solar expansion engine needs to reach higher potential markets: McGuire

But more than two-thirds of solar growth occurs in the five largest solar energy producing countries, which have long been leaders in solar energy development.

China, the United States, Japan, India and Germany together produced 67.4% of total solar energy in 2021 and have been among the largest solar developers for decades.

Graphics: Global Solar Production Vs. Wind Energy

The problem is that when measured by photovoltaic potential, or the amount of sunlight available for solar power generation, three of these countries are not even in the top 100 suitable solar locations.

This means that most of the solar energy production worldwide comes from countries that are not well suited for this technology, and other locations could be more suitable for energy producers looking to tap into the sun’s full potential.


According to the World Bank’s Global Solar Atlas, which provides a curated overview of the amount of solar energy available to each country, the regions with the greatest potential for solar energy production are primarily in Africa and the Middle East, thanks to year-round sunny conditions.

In contrast, the vast majority of current solar energy production capacity is located in countries where the sun rises infrequently due to cloud cover and less daylight hours in winter.

Chart: Map of solar energy potential vs. solar energy production:

This mismatch between the places where solar power plants are actually developed and potentially more suitable but undeveloped locations elsewhere provides development organizations and energy producers an opportunity to increase the adoption of non-emitted solar energy in power systems, just as global pressures are mounting to reduce collective emissions.

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Many countries with great PV potential not only enjoy abundant sunshine, but also fast-growing economies that cause rapidly increasing pollution.

Take, for example, Egypt which ranks fourth in terms of PV capacity, and 30th in terms of global solar capacity.

Charts: Solar Potential vs. Solar Producing Countries

The country’s economy is set to grow more than 5% by 2022, and its 110 million people are seeking greater mobility and opportunity in line with the region’s typical rates of development.

Between 2016 and 2021, the country increased its production of renewable energy by about 300%, but it still relies on fossil fuels for nearly 90% of its electricity.

This heavy dependence on fossil fuels is accompanied by a large carbon footprint, which will amount to 267.1 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2021, after South Africa, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

If the country’s emissions trajectory remains the same over the next ten years as it has since 2010, Egypt’s total CO2 emissions will exceed 300 million tons by 2030.

But if Egypt’s energy sector can maximize the country’s solar potential, the country could become a leader in solar energy in the future, illustrating how favorable solar conditions combined with supportive policy frameworks can improve the economy, accelerating decarbonization efforts without undermining economic growth .

Other leaders

Several other North African countries, including Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, have similar growth potential to Egypt in terms of availability of sunlight and high growth economies.

Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Oman are well suited for PV applications and likely have more government funding to support the transition to a national energy system.

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But Egypt may be in a better position to seize the opportunity, as the country will host the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in November at a hotel that has built a solar power facility on its roof to allow for a show that the country is committed to using cleaner energy.

Of course, one megawatt plant at the Sharm el-Sheikh hotel is negligible compared to the 66 TWh of solar power that China alone brought online between 2020 and 2021.

But if it helps remap major solar installations, it would be a welcome development in the global debate on solar energy, and could help direct much-needed development resources to locations that don’t yet realize solar’s potential. better than the current one. leaders elsewhere.

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