Obama admin sets new solar target

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Obama administration established a new target yesterday to slash solar costs by an additional 50 percent between 2020 and 2030.

It is the first such goal for the 2030 time period from the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which was established in 2011 to make solar cost competitive with traditional energy sources. Earlier this year, the program announced it nearly reached its goals in cutting solar costs through the end of this decade.

It remains unclear to what degree President-elect Donald Trump might support DOE’s solar programs (Greenwire, Nov. 10). Many analysts note that Trump backs renewable energy broadly on his transition website, despite earlier comments critical of wind and solar power.

DOE’s SunShot Initiative supports research and projects that could make solar cost-competitive with other sources by 2020, without subsidies. So far, the cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) has fallen to reach about 90 percent of the administration’s goal, hitting approximately 7 cents per kilowatt-hour on average. The new 2030 targets call for utility-scale PV costs to fall to 3 cents per kWh, with residential solar to reach 5 cents per kWh.

If costs fall to that level, it would “more than double the projected amount of nationwide electricity demand that could be met by solar in 2030 and beyond,” according to DOE.

Separately, DOE also announced $65 million in funding for the program, subject to congressional appropriations. The money would support three SunShot initiatives focused on improved PV module design, faster commercialization of solar and better forecasts of how much solar will be added to the grid.