Exponential drop in renewables prices to strand fossil investments

The price of renewables is dropping very fast.
The price of photovoltaic (PV) panels is actually dropping exponentially. And this exponential price drop should continue.


The graph is from the Global Apollo Programme, part of The London School of Economics and Political Science.

It shows the “price of silicon photovoltaic panels” falling exponentially as the “cumulative installed PV capacity” rises (discussed below).

This sort of exponential price drop often occurs in emerging industries and it will probably continue.  These remarkable price drops, and increasing pollution limits on fossil fuels, are a tsunami.  Clearly, Australia’s continued investment in fossil fuels, like building new railways and ports for coal, is terrible for our environment. But it is also terrible economic management, a waste of resources. Like slide rulers, fossil fuel investments are likely to gather dust. Like asbestos, they will be dismissed as toxic.  (Feedback Reigns)

** Notice that this is a strange graph.
On an ordinary graph the $9.00 distance between $1.0 and $10.0 is shown as ten times the 90 cents distance between $0.10 and $1.00 – but on this graph those distances are the same. And the capacity axis is similar.  When cost data is plotted on a graph like this (a log verses log plot) and when it forms a decreasing straight line, then this demonstrates that the costs are dropping exponentially.  And this is what we see on this graph.  Between 1992 and 2008 is data points are pretty much on a straight line revealing exponential drop in price. And between 2008 and 2014 we see a similar but greater exponential drop in price. (Feedback Reigns)

The Global Apollo Programme reports that the prices of renewable energies, especially solar power, have been falling extremely fast. The sun provides 5,000 times more energy to the earth’s surface than our total human demand for energy. It is particularly abundant in the developing nations of Asia and Africa where most of the future increase in world energy demand will occur.

** Photovoltaic panels:  PV panel prices have been falling by 17% for every doubling of capacity, and with more research they can fall even faster, just as costs have been falling in consumer electronics (which like PV uses semiconductors). Contrary to common opinion, solar PV does not need cloudless sunlight, and for day-time use it is already approaching competitive pricing levels in places as different as Germany, California and Chile.

** Electricity generation by focussing or concentrating the sun’s rays:  Concentrated solar power (CSP) needs direct sunlight but this is amply available in desert areas, which are especially common in the developing world (and 90% of the whole world’s population live within 3,000 km of a desert).  Distribution using direct current is less costly than many people imagine, with only 3% of power being lost for every 1,000km of transmission. CSP is currently more expensive than PV, but costs are falling with increased deployment.

** Wind power:  Of all renewables, on-shore wind is now the cheapest, wherever wind is plentiful. But prices are falling more slowly and basic research is needed to restore the momentum of falling prices
(Global Apollo Programme report)

Global Apollo Programme:
Make renewables less costly than coal
Centre for Economic Performance
The London School of Economics and Political Science

Global Apollo Programme Report (pdf file)

Key Words: Technology Research
Home: www.feedbackreigns.net

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