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Published on September 19th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Solar & Wind Power Are Mainstream, Can Be Cost-Competitive In Every Country

September 19th, 2014 by  


wind-turbines-polandThis report isn’t brand new, but I somehow missed it when it came out a few months ago. It’s a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which is quite a respected global organization. If anything the IEA has a history of being anti-renewables, but the new(ish) report notes that any country can reach a high share of cost-competitive renewable energy, mostly by relying on solar and wind power.

But the head of the IEA, Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven, notes that solar and wind power can’t be add-on solutions. Our entire electricity systems need to transform.

“This new IEA analysis calls for a change of perspective,” she says. “In the classical approach, variable renewables are added to an existing system without considering all available options for adapting it as a whole. This approach misses the point. Integration is not simply about adding wind and solar on top of ‘business as usual’. We need to transform the system as a whole to do this cost-effectively.”

Unfortunately, global warming and climate change are coming strong, and we aren’t acting fast enough globally. However, there are already clear leaders who have helped clear a path for the rest of us, and continue to clear an important path, a road less traveled that will hopefully be more traveled soon.

“Currently, wind and solar PV account for just about 3 percent of world electricity generation, but a few countries already feature very high shares: In Italy, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark, wind and solar PV accounted respectively from around 10 to more than 30 percent of electricity generation in 2012 on an annual basis,” the IEA writes.

renewable energy leaders wind power solar power leaders

Wind power is actually now the cheapest option for new electricity in many if not most markets around the world, so there’s clearly an avenue open for growth there. Solar power is generally much more expensive than wind power, but even it is coming in cheaper than any other utility-scale alternatives in some regions (e.g., Austin, Texas; Minnesota; Chile). Furthermore solar power has one huge advantage. Homeowners and businesses can put solar panels on their roofs. In other words, solar power often competes with the retail price of electricity rather than the wholesale price of electricity. In many if not most regions of the world, solar power is now cheaper than electricity from the grid, or diesel power for those living off the grid.

Wind power and solar power are the future. Well, actually, they are already the present!

Top Image Credit: Zachary Shahan | CleanTechnica (CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

Source: Planetsave. Reproduced with permission.

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Jan Veselý

    I love the Mr. W ad. It is such a great idea.

  • JamesWimberley

    It ads considerable credibility to the IEA’s work that it used to be a house think-tank of the fossil fuel industries, that as you write has undergone a Damascene conversion. Their predictions for renewables are still on the conservative side, though.

    One thing about cost comparisons. You point out the difference between retail and wholesale markets and prices. The wholesale market can be short-term or long-term. Fossil wholesale contracts are usually short-term; the predominant market is day-ahead. There is no market for natural gas 20 years ahead, so it’s not SFIK possible to buy power from a gas generator on that horizon. But because wind, solar, hydro and geothermal have no resource costs, and their operating costs are both very low (compared to capital costs) and predictable, they can offer 20-year PPAs without even inflation escalators. These can’t be compared to fossil generation at all. Am I missing something?

    • Will E

      there you are
      you are not missing nothing.
      clean cheap easy longtime.

  • Will E

    I really think you miss the point on Solar
    Solar is CHEAP.
    please Google Alibaba for Solar
    the companies deliver worldwide, also small amount.
    you can get your Solar system for 50 dollar cents a Kwh. inverter included.
    try Best Sun Solar.
    and the system produces 30 year or more.
    When any town ads an EV charge station to the system you get a local energy business system and image the profits for a town, produced locally.

    Locally produced dollars for jobs. Solar creates local jobs and once installed makes money to pay for local jobs from day one.
    every town can get a Solar energy production plant to earn money for the taxpayers.

    see Austin Texas

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