Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Solar beats coal

As the climate crisis escalates, it is now obvious that we need to radically decarbonise our economy. The good news is that its looking easy and profitable for the energy sector. Wind is already cheaper than fossil fuels, and now solar is too:

The levellised cost of solar PV has fallen so far that all across Europe it is now beating spot wholesale electricity prices, and even with the addition of two hours’ storage it is still beating spot prices in some countries.

Those are two of the findings of a new report from Christian Breyer, professor of solar economy at Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology, who has wrapped up new data and forecasts and reinforced the view that solar PV is by far the cheapest form of bulk energy in many parts of the world, and is still competing with the addition of storage.

It gets better, because the price of solar is expected to halve in the next decade, and drop again by another third before 2050. Breyer notes that the changes are happening so rapidly that it is difficult to keep up, and policy decisions are being made based on years old information. Which isn't good when we are trying to decarbonise. OTOH, the market is good at finding profits, so it may get us there anyway. The question is whether it does it quick enough.

(And on that point, its worth noting that Marsden Point, an oil refinery, is going to host NZ's biggest solar farm. We're in early days yet, but our solar resource is comparable to Europe's, and there's no reason we shouldn't see the same cost structure. Its also worth noting that while they take up a lot of space, solar panels combine well with some forms of agriculture, particularly sheep. Which suggests an obvious thing for all those Canterbury farmers to farm instead of dirty cows: the sun).