>>Renewable energy is now cheaper than natural gas, nearly as cheap as coal
May 6, 2008, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Utilities

San Diego, May 6: Wind and solar are now mature, cost-effective technologies that can compete effectively with traditional utility-scale generation – even without subsidies.

That was the consensus among speakers at this morning’s ASES plenary session on renewable energy technologies. Some key points:

Photovoltaics: Jigar Shah, chief strategy officer at SunEdison

  • Photovoltaic installations have been growing 41% per year since 2001. It’s now a $6 billion industry, equal to the wind turbine industry.
  • Based on the rate of growth of renewable technologies, an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by electric utilities is in fact achievable. It will require the creation of 48 gigawatts of new carbon-neutral generating capacity each year. This can be done over 10 years with a combination of new wind, solar, geothermal and biomass capacity, along with energy efficiency improvements.
  • Distributed generation is faster to install than utility-scale generating plants, and doesn’t require the slow, expensive creation of new transmission lines. It’s therefore less expensive than central power generation.

Concentrating Solar Thermal: Chuck Kutscher, National Renewable Energy Lab

  • At 14 cents per kilowatt hour, CSP now competes successfully with natural gas as intermediate generation, and utilities like it as a hedge against spiking gas prices.
  • The U.S. resource for new CSP is about 300 times richer than new hydroelectric power, or any other conventional resource. If 2% of Colorado’s San Luis Valley were developed for CSP, it would supply twice the state’s peak load and could export power to other states.
  • A high-voltage transmission line from the U.S. Southwest could supply the Eastern states at their peak evening-hour loads.

Wind: Ed DeMeo, president of Renewable Energy Consulting Services, Inc.

  • It’s feasible that we could get 20% of our electricity from wind by 2030.
  • The price of wind power has dropped to less than 6 cents per kilowatt hour, easily competitive with “conventional” utility generation.
  • Integration costs are now less than 10% of wholesale energy costs.
  • Unlike thermoelectric plants, wind requires no cooling water. Widespread adoption of wind could reduce utility water use by 17%, while avoiding the construction of 80 gigawatts of new coal plants.

Transmission: Craig Cornelius, principal at Hudson Clean Energy Partners

  • More transmission capacity is needed to bring renewable electricity to growing markets. The barriers are chiefly political and regulatory.
  • It takes seven to 10 years to plan, permit and build a new power line because the wheels of government grind very slowly and often encounter local opposition.
  • It’s possible to reduce utility-generated greenhouse gases to the 1950 level within a realistic time frame.

2 Comments so far
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Comment by siliconsolar08

Improvements in cost effectiveness in the renewables market have occurred because of focused, sustained investments on the part of big companies like BP, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse, GE, and more. And complete cost parity will not be achieved unless this level of investment continues.

If you’re interested in learning more about the state of renewable energy finance, you should attend the Renewable Energy Finance Forum-Wall Street (, held June 18-19 in New York City. REFF provides an opportunity for investors, financiers, renewable energy project developers, and other stakeholders to network, strike deals, and share ideas about the future of the industry. The event will feature more than 40 high profile speakers from such companies as Morgan Stanley, Boeing, BP, UBS, GE, and more.

Comment by Samantha

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