Graph of the Day: US plots a path to 6c/kWh solar

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The US energy department is boosting plans to bring down the cost of solar to 6c/kWh. Here’s how they plan to do it.

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This graph is striking. It is the latest pathway mapped out by the US Department of Energy to bring down the cost of solar to 6c/kWh by 2020, part of its “Sunshot” initiative launched a couple of years ago.

Progress is well ahead of planned. The cost of modules is already just about there, so in the US they are now focusing on the “soft costs” and technology enablers – integration into the grid, storage, access to capital, local manufacturing and a well-trained workforce. If it makes 6c/kWh – some projects already are with the help of tax credits – then the game is pretty much over for fossil fuel generation.

doe sunshot The US Department of Energy held a three-day summit this week in California making plans. It was largely led by government official.

Here are some of the quotes from the main government players at the conference

• Dr. Cheryl Martin, ARPA-E (broadly the equivalent of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency R&D side): “We are charged to think boldly and differently about the community of innovators… to bring technologies to reality, and ultimately transform our energy future.”

• Dr. Dan Arvizu, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Like a CSIRO dedicated to renewables): “Globally, solar energy is outpacing wind energy. Solar’s time has arrived.”

• Ali Zaidi, White House Domestic Policy Council: “If moonshot was a race away from our planet, SunShot, in a way, is a race to save our planet.” 

• Cristin Dorgelo, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: “SunShot Catalyst invests in people… these 21st century ‘moonshots’ target audacious and achievable goals that will create the jobs and products of the future.”

What do we hear in Australia? Nothing like that. Climate policy is off the agenda. Wind turbines are demonised as “utterly offensive”, solar is ignored. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the very organisations that would help reduce these costs, are slated for closure, among with new funding for the country’s world leading solar research. No government official turned up to the recent solar conference in Melbourne, and no minister would attend the launch of Australia’s first stand alone solar thermal plant with storage. But you can only ignore overseas trends for so long.

 

Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.

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11 Comments
  1. Dan Cass 5 years ago

    When I asked the point person for international collaboration on energy innovation in our federal energy department about SunShot, he said he was ‘vaguely aware of it’.

    That vaguely explains how addicted to coal we are!

    • Chet Lyons 5 years ago

      Down Under Friends, given today’s cost of solar (and even lower projected costs) the Australian Federal Government has crossed into a kind of economic malfeasance. Use of the word malfeasance does seem to fit: “the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust).” It does not make economic sense to support investments in 30+ year coal plants when cheaper non-polluting substitutes will lead to stranded assets. Maybe more of a legal tack would produce results. Appealing to common sense isn’t working.

      • Guest 5 years ago

        Well the Feds just defended every Environmental Defends Office in Australia so they are going to ave to crowd fund for any such a challenge!

      • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

        Well the Abbott Government de-funded every Environmental Defenders Office in Australia as one of the first things they did when they came to power. So any challenge will be funded by crowds I imagine.

  2. Pedro 5 years ago

    Giles, so a member of the oposition or Greens didnt turn up to the melbourne conference or solar thermal plant?

    • John Silvester 5 years ago

      Pedro, a quick look at the conference timetable shows a presentation on Alternative Government Policy by The Hon. Mark Butler MP, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water and Opening Keynote by Senator Christine Milne, Leader of the Australian Greens.
      It appears Labour and the Greens are prepared to have an input into the renewable energy industry.

    • Giles 5 years ago

      Yep, the greens and labor were invited to conference and turned up. Neither was invited to solar thermal plant, as you would expect, because it is government money. It’s just that the government not very happy about it now, and being there would have been awkward for them.

      • coomadoug 5 years ago

        Giles
        The true nature of the energy/pollution/climate change status of the modern world, could be explained in a way that aligns it to opportunity more so than corrupt business behaviours.
        You could outline perhaps the industrial and ecconomic bonanza that our government has chosen to ignore. Sure, the path they are on is so wired and hard to understand. However focus on their bad choice doesn’t expose the hidden opportunities in the inevitable adjustment. Perhaps you could outline the impact if half the money spent on fighter planes was put into green energy R and D.

  3. Les Johnston 5 years ago

    If solar hits 6c/kWh by 2020, any investment in coal based systems now will have major problems making any capital return. 25 year investments in power plants must now be highly questionable.

  4. coomadoug 5 years ago

    The government leaders at all levels are not as stupid as their policy directions might suggest. So I conclude that there is a criminal negligence at play. There is clearly a tendency to knowingly instigate a kind of vandalism and various market initiatives that are just not “liberal”.
    More than that, these are moves that are essentially corrupt and an a use
    abuse of the role of government. Still further along this trail are journalists and media organizations abusing their role in society, playing a key role in the corrupt a use of power so blatantly at work.

    • DoRightThing 5 years ago

      I’d still rather have a clean corrupt government, than a polluting corrupt government.

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