According to a recent study, more than 30 million households across Europe have the potential to fulfil all their energy requirements solely through rooftop solar panels. The research, conducted by scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, indicates that over 50% of Europe’s 41 million stand-alone homes could have achieved energy self-sufficiency using solar panels and battery technology in 2020. It is projected that this percentage could rise to 75% by the year 2050.
Advancements in solar technology are expected to make it economically feasible for a subset of these individual homes to disconnect from the electrical grid in the upcoming decades. However, the researchers advise against widespread grid abandonment, advocating for a macroeconomic approach in which households remain connected to the grid and contribute surplus energy during periods of overproduction.
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Max Kleinebrahm, the lead researcher and an energy economics specialist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, explains, “our findings reveal that even in 2050, going off-grid may not be the most cost-effective choice. Instead, investing in self-sustaining structures could make sense if you are willing to pay extra for self-sufficiency. It would be less efficient to have a large number of households completely leaving the grid, rather than supporting and enhancing it.”
The cost of solar panels has seen a significant reduction in recent years, with solar power expenses plummeting by nearly 90% over the last decade, as determined by the Berlin-based Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in September.
Felix Creutzig, the lead researcher, believes that these declining costs may mean that the global energy consumption in 2050 could be entirely and cost-effectively met through solar technology and other renewable sources.
Additionally, a separate study conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter and University College London, published recently, has identified solar energy as reaching an “irreversible tipping point” that will position it as the primary source of global power within the next three decades.
Femke Nijsse from the University of Exeter states, “the recent progress in renewables has made fossil fuel-dominated projections no longer viable. Utilising three models that account for positive feedback loops, we forecast that solar PV will dominate the global energy mix by the mid-point of this century.”