This past weekend, I attended the Aspen Institute‘s Clean Energy Roundtable, an annual gathering of business, political, and policy leaders working in clean energy. Inspired by the many insights and ideas presented, here are my thoughts on the state of clean energy today and what lies ahead.
First, the good news. Prices of key clean energy technologies are plummeting, bringing many technologies, such as distributed solar and energy storage, closer and closer to mass deployment. The cost of solar panels today is about 20 percent below that of a year ago. And it should continue dropping for the forseeable future. In other words, the performance/price ratio is improving exponentially, like computer chips, if not quite as fast, and for different reasons — cost economies for the most part, as opposed to breakthrough technologies. The main driver of the plummeting costs is volume and successful efforts by the Chinese government to vertically integrate the Chinese solar industry, which now supplies over half of the world’s solar panels. (In advanced thin films, costs per watt are also coming down.) Even more dramatic price drops are occurri... Read more