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Solar energy a too closely guarded secret, says Steven Guilbeault

As the debate on tar sands pipelines rages on in North America, we talk very little – too little – about the the mini revolution in solar energy taking place both here and around the world. 

Who hasn't heard about the shale gas boom in the United States? In recent years, this energy has supplied 50% of the new electricity production for our neighbours to the south.

But who has taken the time to focus on the role of solar energy in the United States? According to a recent study, this sector grew by 418% from 2010 to 2014. 

And solar energy is experiencing popularity in places other than the United States. Just 100 km to the west of Montreal, our Ontario neighbours have begun a major shift to solar. If you drive between Montreal and Ottawa, you will see the number of panels that have been installed, included on many farms. 

This veritable boom will allow the creation of thousands of jobs in Ontario in the solar energy sector. Samsung has already announced that it would like to create 9000 such jobs over the next few years.

And what are the projections for solar electricity over the coming years? Estimates range from 16% to half of global output by 2050. 

It is true that solar energy still represents a small portion of the energy portfolio, both in North America and worldwide. But it is also true that as more and more states adopt measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels (e.g., carbon taxes, stricter rules on coal, opposition to pipeline projects and tar sands), solar energy will take up more space in the shopping basket. 

Some figures from the solar energy sector

  • 80% - The cost of producing solar energy has decreased by 80% over the past five years – a trend that is expected to continue.
  • 40% - The production of solar electricty increased by 40% over the past ten years. 
  • $140G - Annual investment in this sector alone totals around $140 billion.  

This article by Steven Guilbeault, senior director of Equiterre, originally appeared in French in the Métro newspaper.