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The ever reliable Moneyweek believe solar energy is reaching its tipping point

The ever reliable Moneyweek believe solar energy is reaching its tipping point

Moneyweek has always been a source of reliable financial information for the contrarian investor who doesn’t trust the regurgitated press releases from the financial services industry that makes up most of the personal finance pages of the mainstream media.

It’s interesting to note that it is now suggesting that it’s readers invest in renewable technologies and we particularly like this section on solar energy in the current issue:

Solar energy is near a tipping point

In the past, solar energy was seen as a fringe, unreliable technology, only viable in desert areas, and even then only with large public subsidies. But those days are long gone. Solar is becoming increasingly competitive compared to electricity produced via conventional methods – even in colder, cloudier climates, such as northern Europe.

A recent Deutsche Bank report notes that four years ago the cost of generating solar electricity was seven times that of coal-generated wholesale electricity. Now it’s less than double – and at current rates of development, parity is only a year to 18 months away.

As well as the marginal generation costs, the cost of installing solar systems, especially solar panels, has been falling. Overall costs have fallen by around 15% a year for nearly a decade, and should go down by a further 40% in the next four to five years.

One big innovation has been the creation of “yield cos”, financial vehicles that have made it easier for firms to raise large sums of money for capital investment. While these have been largely limited to developed countries, they are now gradually growing in emerging markets, boosting the solar industries in those countries.

The main stumbling block to mass adoption is that it is still expensive to store power generated during the day for use at night. However, the development of cost-effective batteries for this sort of energy storage is progressing fast.

The cost of lithium batteries, the most reliable technology – especially for small-scale use – is falling by 20%-30% a year. At that rate we would see a tipping point by the end of this decade. This progress is encouraging countries to invest large sums in solar energy. One of the most audacious solar power schemes comes from Dubai.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority is paying ACWA from Saudi Arabia $330m to build a 200 megawatt plant, which is expected to open in two years’ time. The cost of the electricity produced by the plant will be less than six cents per kilowatt-hour, the lowest costs for any solar plant in the world, and well below the cost of most conventional power generation.   

You can read the full article at Moneyweek.

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