Solar energy can generate clean, reliable power with little maintenance and free fuel. The most promising solar technologies in the short term are those that capture the energy of the sun's rays to heat indoor space or water and use the sun to generate electricity.
Countries such as Germany, Spain and China are leading the world in implementing and manufacturing solar systems. These countries provide clear examples of what can be achieved quickly if the right policy mechanisms are in place.
More than 29 million homes around the world use solar power for hot water and heating. In the German city of Freiburg, solar panels are commonly found on homes, hotels, sports arenas, schools and businesses. In Canada, solar energy can provide up to 90 per cent of residential and commercial hot-water heating at a cost below the price of heating water with electricity.
Global solar photovoltaic capacity grew by an average of 60 per cent per year between 2004 and 2009. Its high growth rates are leading to a downward trend in prices.
Canada sits well behind the global curve, with per-capita spending on solar cells far below the world average. Canadian solar firms are industry leaders internationally; however, their focus is on exports as domestic markets for their products are lacking.
Employment in the solar sector is found in manufacturing, installation, operations and maintenance. The German solar thermal and PV industries employ 78,000 people.