We’ve already seen solar panel prices fall by around 80 per cent over the past three years, but according to DuPont’s Conrad Burke – GM at the industrial giant’s Innovalight unit, which makes a product that increases the efficiency of PV panels – we can expect them to keep on falling. Why? For the simple reason that the technology behind solar PV is “much less complicated” than many consumer electronics being made cheaper today. “Right now it would be cheaper to put 40-inch TVs on your roof than solar panels,” despite the fact the latter are a lot less technologically complex, said Burke. This is because TVs are mass produced by about five major manufacturers, he said – which could be the shape of things to come for the solar industry. Like the aluminum and mobile phone industries before it, said Burke, it the solar industry could consolidate once technology enables low-cost production.
The comments highlight the potential for solar panel costs to fall far enough that power from cells rivals that generated by fossil fuels, says Bloomberg – an energy challenge that was also stressed by DuPont’s executive vice president and chief innovation officer, Tom Connelly, during a televised debate hosted by the company and moderated by a BBC World News anchor. “We have to work right now to gain grid parity for solar and wind power, and to make biofuels fully competitive with oil-based fuels globally, as is already the case in Brazil,” Connelly said on Wednesday in Sao Paulo. “We must transform these energy sources from the margins to the mainstream.” And while the conversation in Brazil focused mainly on that country’s opportunities in biofuel production, as well as wind and PV, solar proliferation remains a key global goal for the company. After all, as Burke pointed out, DuPont’s materials are in 70 per cent of the world’s installed panels, and the company aims to hit $2 billion in solar sales by 2014, after $1.4 billion last year.
Cultivating experts on carbon farming
The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) promises to become a little easier to negotiate for participants, with the establishment this week of an expert panel to assess proposed methods for developing carbon credits under the federal government scheme. The panel, revealed today, will be chaired by sustainable agriculture expert Professor Tim Reeves (Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne School of Land and Environment) and will include Dr Tony Press (leading climate science figure); Professor Lynette Abbott (Vice Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science and Professor in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia); Rebecca Burdon (an economist who worked on developing NSW’s greenhouse gas abatement scheme); Dr Brian Keating (CSIRO); and Shayleen Thompson (the rep from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency). “The committee has the skills and expertise to make sure that CFI methodologies are based on robust science and will lead to verifiable abatement of carbon pollution,” said federal Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus. It replaces the interim Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee set up to fast track assessment of methodologies submitted for assessment prior to commencement of the CFI.
Obama vs the ‘Flat Earth Society’
Another big hitter championing the growth of solar power this week was Barack Obama. The US President took his election campaign to a Nevada solar energy plant, where he defended his energy policy while also taking a swipe at his Republican adversaries, who have been blaming him for America’s high petrol prices. AFP reportsthat Obama told the gathering at the plant that he had been unable to get an energy and climate change bill through Congress because “some” politicians were determined to prevent public investment in solar energy. “If these guys were around when Columbus set sail, they’d be charter members of the Flat Earth Society,” Obama said, stressing that all US energy resources should be tapped at a time of high petrol prices. “An energy strategy that focuses only on drilling and not on an energy strategy that will free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil, that’s a losing strategy,” he said, urging Congress to repeal subsidies to oil companies and redirect them to green energy. AFP notes that Nevada and New Mexico are both considered key battlegrounds ahead of the November 6 election, when Obama hopes to score a second four-year mandate.
Modelling highlights a Capital energy saving idea
Detailed modelling released today, to accompany the introduction of the Energy Efficiency (Cost of Living) Improvement Bill into the ACT Legislative Assembly, shows Canberrans can save around $300 on their household energy bills by 2015 under the Labor government’s proposed energy efficiency plan. The modelling shows that the plan, which is to provide energy efficiency services to 70,000 homes across the ACT, would have a net benefit to the ACT economy of around $40 million as well as generating total household level savings of $2140 over the life of the scheme.
“What is telling in this analysis is that, while cost impacts occur over a short three year period and total $87, the average savings are around $300 in the short term and continue after the scheme concludes, rising to $2140 per household over the life of the measures implemented in homes. Many households will be able to achieve savings greater than the average,” said the ACT’s Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell. “The analysis also demonstrates that low income earners, including renters, will be major beneficiaries of the scheme because… (it) will assist with the upgrade or replacement of old and inefficient appliances such as fridges, televisions and dryers,” he said.