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We’ve explained previously why renewable energy is getting cheaper all
the time, but if you found it challenging to spot the patterns among all
those figures and numbers, the following charts will make everything
The first was shared by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) Chairman
Michael Liebreich back in April during BNEF’s annual conference called
“In Search of the Miraculous.” What we’re looking at is the solar panel
cost per installed Watt (red) versus the scale of deployment or
installed solar capacity in MegaWatt (MW) plotted over the last forty years.
Since 1975, the cost of solar has dropped 150-fold while installed solar
capacity has jumped 115,000-fold. Granted, there was a lot of ground to
cover and picking the low hanging fruit was pretty easy up until a
decade ago. But the momentum solar has gathered doesn’t seem to show any
signs of slowing down soon. So, there’s reason to believe that these two
curves can follow the same trend lines for a couple of years still until
the improvements gradually become incremental, instead of exponential.
Here’s where the second graph comes in.
The graph above illustrates a learning rate which basically means that
for every doubling in the scale of the solar industry, the price of
solar modules has dropped roughly 26 percent. “The chart is arguably the
most important chart in energy markets. It describes a pattern so
consistent, and so powerful, that industries set their clocks by it,”
reads BNEF’s New Energy Outlook report from June, 2016.
In 2015, 30 million Americans enjoyed solar power cheaper than the grid.
Also in the US, solar power is cheaper than fossil fuels even without
subsidies in many states while coal, gas or oil receive subsidies worth
$452 billion each year across G20 states. Earlier this month, Chile
signed a deal for a new solar plant for 2.91$c/kWh — that’s the cheapest
unsubsidized power plant in the world so far.
Many thanks to ThinkProgress‘ Dr. Joe Romm for digging these charts.
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