Clean energy technology costs tumbled since 2008 — report

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporte • Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016

The costs of five key clean energy technologies plunged by as much as 94 percent since President Obama took office, according to a report today from the Department of Energy.

The annual “Revolution … Now” report assesses cost and deployment trends with wind turbines, utility-scale and rooftop solar, electric vehicles, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the findings at a Washington, D.C., event yesterday..

DOE concludes that utility-scale solar costs have dropped more than 64 percent since 2008. Land-based wind accounted for 41 percent of all new capacity last year, and utility-scale solar represented 15 percent.

Distributed solar costs dropped 54 percent in the past year, while LED costs plunged more than 90 percent, the report says.

“This report is further proof that our commitment to clean energy and American innovation can lead to steep cost reductions,” Moniz said.

He framed the report in terms of climate change and last year’s talks in Paris, where 21 countries pledged to double research and development funding over five years from $15 billion to $30 billion as part of the Mission Innovation initiative.

DOE is examining how synergy between innovation and policies like a carbon price can advance clean energy deployment, he said. So far, U.S. lawmakers have declined to fund much of the doubling proposed in Paris, partly out of concerns that it would lead to cuts in DOE programs for nuclear waste and other issues.

The report also found:

  • Utility-scale solar photovoltaics grew 43 percent last year over 2014 levels.
  • LED bulb installations surpassed more than 200 million last year, a doubling from 2014.
  • More than 490,000 electric vehicles were sold in the United States as of August.

The report also highlights several technologies that DOE sees poised to experience rapid growth, like fuel cells.

For example, teams participating in a DOE program to increase the fuel efficiency of 18-wheeler trucks by 50 percent will meet their target by the end of the year, the report says. Some researchers are achieving 115 percent efficiency, with interest from private companies.

“Overall the participating teams have already successfully commercialized 21 technologies to date, including advances in engine and drivetrain integration and in aerodynamics. An additional 26 technologies are estimated to be commercialized in the next two to four years,” the report says of “supertrucks.”