Analysis

US solar power growth through 2040

Exponential or inconsequential?

Gain perspectives on the long-term growth trajectory for solar power in the US and in the context of the evolving US electric power industry and ecosystem.

The future of solar power growth

Projecting the path of a rapidly growing technology like solar power more than a few years forward is dicey at best; many unpredictable variables inject a large dose of uncertainty into the equation. Evolving cost structures, new business models, developing technologies, policies, and customer attitudes are just a few pieces of the puzzle that may determine solar power’s future. So it’s not surprising that forecasts for US solar power penetration by 2040 do, indeed, range from almost inconsequential levels to an exponential progression in which solar accounts for nearly all US power generation by 2030.

This latest report provides perspectives on the long-term growth trajectory for solar power in the US and in the context of the evolving US electric power industry and ecosystem. In addition, it examines the enablers and constraints on solar growth and the most promising technologies, innovations, and trends that could promote continued exponential growth.

  • Projections for long term US solar power growth vary widely, and while most foresee growth moderating from recent exponential rates, the potential for continued exponential growth is worth consideration, as it has happened with other technologies. Solar power growth may continue to outpace most conventional projections.
  • Many factors may constrain or enable solar growth, such as the cost of solar and enabling technologies; the rate of technological advances; the evolution of policies such as fiscal incentives and carbon reduction programs; utility rate reform; and evolving financial structures, business models, and customer sentiment.
  • Regardless of the rate of solar growth in coming decades, solar power and other exponential technologies are already penetrating the traditional electric value chain and driving change throughout that value chain. How it plays out is uncertain, but what is certain is that now is the time for electric utilities and other electric value chain participants to embrace these technologies and the operating models and business ecosystems they imply.

Whether your company is involved in developing or installing solar power; generating, transmitting or distributing electricity; or developing enabling or competing technologies–you should consider the following question: Does my company’s planning include a full range of scenarios related to solar power growth, and have we developed strategies to address them?

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