UNSW Sydney professor Martin Green has become the first Australian to receive the prestigious Global Energy Prize.

In a ceremony in Moscow recently, he was recognised for his research, development and educational activities in the field of photovoltaics.

The annual Global Energy Prize was presented to professor Green by Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak in Moscow, Russia. The award honours outstanding achievement in research and technology and is designed to address some of the world's most pressing energy challenges.

Professor Green, who is director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW, was honoured for having “revolutionised the efficiency and costs of solar photovoltaics, making this now the lowest cost option for bulk electricity supply”.

Professor Green is a world-leading specialist in both monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon solar cells, and the research group he founded in UNSW Engineering is the largest and best-known university-based photovoltaic research group in the world.

The enormous reductions in costs in photovoltaic solar systems in recent years is directly related to his scientific efforts, largely through the work of his students in establishing manufacturing centres in Asia.

In 1989, his team supplied the solar cells for the first photovoltaic system with an energy conversion efficiency of 20 percent.

In 2014, he headed the development team that first demonstrated the conversion of sunlight into electricity with an energy conversion efficiency of 40 percent.

Among his many breakthroughs, he invented the PERC solar cell, which accounts for at least a quarter of the world solar cell manufacturing capacity and has a rapidly increasing market share due to its greater efficiency over other types of cells. PERC solar cells are now becoming a commercial standard throughout the world, with sales exceeding US$10 billion in 2017 and predicted to exceed US$1 trillion by 2040.

“The time of solar has arrived and this is good news for the world,” says Professor Green.

“The PERC cells pioneered by UNSW now reflect 50 per cent of world production.  During that time, we’ve seen solar move from expensive energy to inexpensive energy.  Our work on PERC has driven that.”

“This award cements Martin’s position as the leading photovoltaics researcher in the world. His work has delivered transformational outcomes in renewable energy for more than three decades and will continue to produce major economic and social benefits. This honour is as exceptional as it is fitting and we warmly congratulate him,” says UNSW president and vice-chancellor professor Ian Jacobs