Disclaimer. After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. While I do make mistakes, I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct (old habits die hard!) Also, don't ask me why I called it "Volewica". It's too late, now.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Solar electricity at 6 cents

This article from CleanTechnica announces that in Dubai, solar electricity is to be produced at just 6 cents per kWh.  Average retail electricity prices vary a lot round the world.  In some countries they're subsidised or the regulator sets low prices for political reasons.  But 6 cents per kWh is still very cheap.  Moreover, unlike conventional power stations, solar power production doesn't have to be centralised.  It can be distributed around the grid.  This reduces the costs of expanding and maintaining the grid.

So between latitudes 30 N and S solar is already cheap.  From latitudes 30 to 50, it's more expensive, but--and this is key--the cost of solar panels is falling by 15-20% per annum, which means that in 5 years' time, solar will cost just 2 cents per kWh in equatorial regions and 4 cents in, say, Germany.

Ah, say the wowsers, but what about the fact that the sun doesn't shine all the time?  Well, yeah, we'll need batteries to stabilise the grid.  But grid-based battery storage is already cheaper than expanding the grid in many places.  And battery costs are falling rapidly: by 15% per year over the last 15 years and even faster recently.  The implications of this shift are immense.  It won't be long before pure economics will drive an inexorable switch from fossil fuels to renewables.  It's already started and it can only accelerate.

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