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Published on January 24th, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan

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Cheapest Solar In The World (Michael Liebreich Interview Series)

January 24th, 2015 by  

What’s more exciting than talking about the cheapest solar power in the world and disruptive technology with Michael Liebreich?

One of the biggest solar power stories of the past year — if not the biggest — was the record-low price of solar power that was bid in Dubai toward the end of the year. ACWA Power bid 5.98 cents per kWh, well below the cost of natural gas in the region (which is 9 cents per kWh). Michael Liebreich — Chairman of the Advisory Board of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and founder of the company under the original name of New Energy Finance — was kind enough to invite me to dinner the other night after a World Future Energy Summit panel that he moderated. On the way to dinner, our conversation was already getting so interesting that we stopped to record a bit of it.

I really think the video is worth a watch, so I’m going to encourage more of you than normal to watch it by not writing up a summary. However, in case you need a little bit of a taster, I will list some of the key topics discussed. Check them out below the video.

Key topics Michael Liebreich and I had fun chatting about:

  • The world’s cheapest solar power bid.
  • A conversation between Kerry Adler, President of Sky Power, and Paddy Padmanathan, CEO ACWA Power, about the financial viability of that bid.
  • The solar power experience curve, and ways in which costs can and will continue to come down.
  • Disruptive technologies and the “Kodak moment” of incumbent industries that don’t transition quickly enough.
  • The future of utilities.


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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed 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, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. 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.



  • I’m all for lower installed solar energy prices, but the lowest bid projects sometimes don’t get built because they are in fact too low and if they do, you often get what you pay for. If you are going to financially back a PV plant for 20 years, what kind of equipment do you want installed and by whom? That said, there is a floor to how low solar prices can go -we are not there yet. Moreover, technology and policy breakthroughs will help lower prices. The next or rather current frontier is battery storage, that is one of the big spaces where prices need to come down -at least for part of our book of business. JV

  • Robert Pollock

    Here’s a cheap energy strategy that I find more than curious;
    If you own an Zero Emission electric car, Southern California Edison, will sell you as much electricity as you can absorb, for 11 cents/kw, between the early morning hours of mid-night to 6 am. 11 cents per kw is about 1/3 of what we pay normally. (Averaging out the different tiers charges is impossible) so I take the annual totals to determine that we pay about 30 to 35 cents per kw overall) The 21 kw lith-ion battery that runs my Chevy Spark EV, would be capable of storing enough electricity purchased at 11 cents, to run our whole house for the rest of the day and night. Of course I couldn’t drive the car, but I’m just using it to illustrate my point;
    The car is engineered so that you can charge it up, but you can’t use it as a power source otherwise, other than driving it. So I’d have to find a used lith-ion battery on Craigs list in L.A., they are emerging now. Then I’d have to connect it to an inverter, to pull AC power out to run the house during the day. The battery set up would cost about $3 to $5 thousand dollars, a lot depends on the emerging battery market, but that would be a pittance, compared to what it would cost to get the same amount of electricity from a solar pv array. And the battery would install in hours, not days, it’s about the size of a flattened out suitcase. The utilities know this, and they know it’s a death knell for their business model….

  • Absolutely wonderful interview and content. Thanks, Zach.

  • Bruce Miller

    China/America Solar Panels
    Did you
    know that American citizens pay huge “tariffs” on Chinese
    solar panels (200+%) because: American industrialists found it
    cheaper to bribe (lobbyists) government officials to impose
    “so-called’ dumping tariffs than to do as the Chinese have done:
    Invest heavily in totally automating their factories, streamlining
    their production systems, spending on research for faster, cheaper,
    better, SMARTer ways to compete on world markets, spend money on
    scientists to make more efficient product.

    • DMS

      It’s true that high tariffs on solar panels contribute to the high cost of solar installations in the US, but the reason for the tariffs is to encourage American companies to invest in solar panel production. This policy is already bearing fruits, as Solar City is investing 5 billion dollars in a highly automated state of the art solar panel production facility in New York.

  • Michael G

    Very encouraging. If you had to choose between eliminating all GHG emissions from either all transportation (cars, planes, trains, etc.) or all electriicty generation you would absolutley choose to clean up electricity generation. In the US, transport is only 32% of the contribution to GHG (cars/SUVs = 18% of US GHG), and worldwide it is only 24%, so getting all the utilitiy execs and national energy ministers to get with wind and solar is going to get us where we want to faster than all the EVs in the next 5 years.

    With the price of oil down and looking to stay down for a while, we may have to resign ourselves to little progress on EV popularization for a few years, so getting power generation clean should be a top priority.

    • Joe Viocoe

      Absolutely… I would choose electricity generation.
      But I don’t own a power plant, I own a car.

      It isn’t so much what we ‘would do’… but rather, what we ‘could do’.

      We should all be pushing for less coal on the grid… but when it comes to transportation, we have more say in what we choose to drive.

      • Michael G

        C.f., my other reply with a link to a DoE study. Payback is 4-9 years for an EV but most consumers have a 3 year time horizon. So we need gas at $6.50/gal or much, much cheaper batteries for EVs to take off. pg 33 of:

        http://www.transportationandclimate.org/sites/default/files/TCI-EV-Lit-Review_0.pdf

        • Joe Viocoe

          I completely disagree that motor vehicle consumers need a 3 year ROI.

          “The Harvard study noted that consumers
          may ignore any fuel savings past the three- or four-year time horizon because they may be uncertain about new
          products like PEVs.”
          -p. 33 of your link

          Even if sold after 3 years, the ROI is much higher than just the savings on gasoline… because the secondary (used car) buyer, will value the further savings on both gasoline and maintenance.

          And “uncertainty” may be a problem with early adopter vehicles, like Leaf 1.0 or Volt 1.0… but 2nd and 3rd generation Plugins will have a better certainty of value, well past 3-5 years.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There’s another factor besides cost.

            A lot of people want to do something personally to help with climate change. If they can purchase an EV that allows them to drive where they want and if they can break even on cost in a few years then they are going to give EVs a serious consideration.

            Additionally, the convenience of plugging in at home (avoiding the fuel station) and the superior acceleration/quietness of EVs are going to help push sales.

          • Michael G

            And those people are buying EVs and hybrids right now. But not in sufficient numbers to make a difference. There’s no waiting list to get a Leaf or Volt right now.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Just hang on for a while. This generation of EVs is not yet five years old and many people have been scared off by the “range anxiety” stuff coming out of the media.

            Let’s see what happens when we have 200 mile range EVs and prices come down a bit.

          • jim c

            I agree. I’m waiting for 2017 to buy a new car. I do want 200 mile range.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Tesla is apparently paying $180/kWh currently for their batteries. When the giga factory is up and running the price should fall below $130/kWh. At $100/kWh EVs will be cheaper than ICEVs to purchase.

          http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/battery-storage-costs-plunge-below100kwh-19365

        • Joe Viocoe

          The more I read that report.. the more I see how much they got WRONG in their predictions, even from only 2012 until now.

          It is a real fallacy to rely on a single report/study, that was written at a time when BEVs were still barely available and no real world data yet collected.

          The reality of BEV and PHEV sales and interest in 2015 is a very different picture, than the one painted by that report.

        • Mint

          Payback time will be solved by the free market once EVs establish a track record of reliability. They’ll follow a smartphone sales model.

          Imagine charging $3 per 40 miles (like a virtual gallon, but with a guaranteed price) to drive an EV. Now you generate a $1000/yr revenue stream for 15+ years. A bit of that will go towards paying for energy in a partnership with utilities, but the rest can be used to discount the EV up front.

          I know the battery lease model didn’t work so well in some regions, but they weren’t structured to be analogous to gasoline.

      • patb2009

        if you put 2 KW of solar on your roof, you move the needle.
        If you put 5 KW on the roof you go Grid neutral.

        If you put 10 KW on the roof you produce enough to power 2 cars and the house all day

    • JamesWimberley

      Why do we have to choose? The two rely on quite different tecnologíes and markets. To get to sustainability, we must do both. The good news is that with renewable electricity and electric land transport, both of which can be done with known and affordable technologies, the back of the carbon emissions problem will be broken – see the LLNL energy flowcharts. That will leave some technical challenges, in shipping, aviation, cement and steel at least, but the scale is much more manageable.

      • Matt

        if willing to use urine there are lower energy approach to concrete

        • Ronald Brakels

          Lower emission approaches don’t have to be lower energy. Simple changes such as letting concrete cure longer can reduce emissions.

      • Michael G

        You and I don’t have to choose but most people want a short payback in gas savings so they are unlikely to buy EVs en masse unless gas is higher or EVs are cheaper. It is going to remain a small market until one or both of those things happen. Page 33 of:

        http://www.transportationandclimate.org/sites/default/files/TCI-EV-Lit-Review_0.pdf

    • just_jim

      You are talking like the two goals are in conflict. In reality the goals reinforce each other. Clean generation makes EV transport cleaner, and EV helps clean generation. And its not like they are competing for the same capital. The money for each comes from very different sources.

      • Michael G

        With gas priced at around $2/gal., the economics don’t work for most people. From a study done for the DoE for the North Eastern US:

        “The Harvard study noted that consumers may ignore any fuel savings past the three- or four-year time horizon because they may be uncertain about new products like PEVs. If this is the case, mass PEV adoption may not be expected unless gasoline prices reach $6 per gallon instead of $4.50 per gallon or upfront PEV costs fall substantially”

        Followed by several tables showing that for $2.50/gal EVs have paybacks of 4-7 years over ICEs depending on various assumptions. The payback vs hybrids is 4-9 years. A lot of people may feel that hybrids offer a more affordable compromise. If GHG from autos went down by 50% due to everyone doubling their fuel economy we will have made substantial progress.

        Page 33 – link here:

        http://www.transportationandclimate.org/sites/default/files/TCI-EV-Lit-Review_0.pdf

        • Bob_Wallace

          That’s based on the assumption that battery prices stay high and keep EV prices high.

          We’re apparently heading toward low cost batteries very rapidly. That will mean purchase prices for a 200 mile range EV will be similar, perhaps less, than a same-model ICEV.

          http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/battery-storage-costs-plunge-below100kwh-19365

          When/if we reach that point fuel savings start at day one. Even with $2/gallon fuel and 50 MPG cars that’s 4 cents per mile plus higher maintenance costs.

          • andereandre

            From that article: “UBS, in a report based around a discussion with Navigant research, says the $230/kWh mark will be reached by the broader market within two to three years, and will likely fall to 100/kWh.”
            That is already pessimistic.
            Eos offers its 1000 MW / 4000 MWh (10k cycles) system for 160$/kWh, delivery in 2016.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t think EOS has a vehicle version of their battery. The $160/kWh is a grid storage battery. I suspect there are weight/size issues that keep them from being EV ready.

            They were talking about vehicle applications in the future on their old web site. I see that they have a new site that addresses grid storage with no mention of EVs.

            http://www.eosenergystorage.com/

            The EOS zinc-air is being tested on grids right now. If it proves out it’s going to shake things up. Using one to move late night wind to peak demand hours would cost about 4c/kWh. That, along with <4c/kWh wind would be a killer.

            As for the price of EV batteries, I suspect things are going to move along pretty quickly. We've got the Tesla/Panasonic giga factory, another company is doing a huge factory in North Carolina (?), L G Chem is expanding capacity, and I think BYD is also building big. I doubt we'd see all this activity unless the people in the know are very sure that prices are about to drop quickly and create very large demand.

          • andereandre

            I forgot the link to the announcement: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150121005210/en/Eos-Energy-Storage-Introduces-Aurora-Battery-System#.VMSvHC69vmE
            I am a bit amazed that this story was not covered here. It is not a prediction but an offering. If they come through then it will be a killer.

          • Mint

            EOS has been covered quite extensively at CleanTechnica, as has the $160/kWh price point. But it does look like this announcement of availability is somewhat more formal, so I think you’re right that this could make for a good new article.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Speaking of grid storage batteries, has anyone seen this?
            http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/2015-year-australias-energy-market-changes-forever-96828
            When I read it, this jumped up and hit me in the eye:

            “In 2015, this is what we can expect:
            Battery prices will start their freefall sometime this year.”

            The future looks grim for the fossil-fuel fools.

          • Michael G

            Press releases aren’t product.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The folks at EOS have been pretty straight shooters over the years. They’ve prototyped and field tested their batteries on the timeline they projected.

            It looked like the first production would be higher than $160/kWh and they would have to work the price down. But, according to the release, they are going to be selling at that price.

            It looks like things may not go well for the peaker industry. And this could be the beginning of the end for spinning reserve.

          • Michael G

            I have seen that chart many times, and it is very encouraging. I didn’t say batteries won’t fall in price, but it will take a substantial drop to make them so EVs are bought in large numbers with gas at $2/gal.

            You and everyone else here is saying it will be so great “real soon now.” The reality I see in all the new EVs is battery progress is grindingly slow. We wlll get to widespread EV adoption but it will be years from now while the interview featured in this article is talking about widespread utility solar right now.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’ll copy over part of the battery cost article I linked. Apparently you didn’t read it.

            “Navigant estimates the cost of materials going into a battery at the Tesla Gigafactory on a processed chemical basis (not the raw ore) is $69/kWh [this metric is per kW per hour of operation].

            The cost of the battery is only ~10-20% higher than the bill of materials – suggesting a potential long-term competitive price for Lithium Ion batteries could approach ~$100 per kWh.

            Tesla currently pays Panasonic $180/kW for their batteries, although conventional systems still selling for $500-700/kWh. But Navigant says that the broader market place will reach the levels Tesla is paying in the next two to three years.”

            ….

            “And, it quotes Navigant researcher Sam Jaffe in this clear point, that battery storage is coming now.

            Jaffe said most of his ten years in the sector had been “sitting at conferences hearing the same presentations from the same people about the same hypothetical benefits of energy storage.

            ”But I see a very important change in the last two years where most of the presentations at these conferences are now talking about actual deployment of storage. So what has been a hypothetical concept for so long is now becoming a real business.”

            As Jaffe noted, the $180/kWh price paid by Tesla compares to about $1500/kWh even five years ago, maybe seven years ago when it was $1200 to $1500 per kilowatt-hour. “So $180 per kWh is the price of those batteries, not the manufacturing cost but the price that they’re paying for them,” he said..”

            http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/battery-storage-costs-plunge-below100kwh-19365

            From $1500 to $180 in five years is a bit faster than grindingly slow. And chop another 30% off when the Tesla/Panasonic giga factory is up and running.

            A 50 kWh pack is probably adequate to build a 200 mile range EV. At $130/kWh that’s $6,500 for batteries which is in the ballpark of an ICE with its fuel, cooling and exhaust systems and transmission.

            We’ve also seen some apparent meaningful increase in capacity. The replacement battery pack that Tesla is releasing for their Roadster fits in the same space as the original battery but increases the range from 244 to 400 miles.

            Gas (oil) prices will likely stay low for a while, but not years. Once we’ve burned through the extra supply prices will rise to the price point it takes new production to come on line. Rigs won’t start up again in the shale oil fields at the current prices.

          • Michael G

            People whose job it is to predict oil prices have been specatacularly wrong for years in both directions so no one’s guess is worth much. Consumer sentiment is not soley dependent on battery prices. Recharging availability, resale value, saving the environment, being the latest with the new thing, etc. all factor in both for and against. The DoE funded document here:

            http://www.transportationandclimate.org/sites/default/files/TCI-EV-Lit-Review_0.pdf

            goes into consumer sentiment in some depth and I recommend it to anyone who thinks once we reach $100kWh we are home free (pg 13-14). That document is clearly advocating EVs yet they still see substantial barriers.

            Nor is widespread EV adoption necessary for large improvement. From pg 13 op. cit.. “Indeed, EPA-HTSA scenarios for reaching the Administration’s new 54.5 mpg standards for 2025 forecast that only 3 to 4 percent of the vehicle fleet must be plug-­‐in electric vehicles by 2025 to meet the standard.”

            So we can cut vehicle fuel consumption (and thus emissions) in half in 10 years with what we have now. That is a good thing.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The 54.5 MPG reg is absolutely a good thing. It’s already cutting our CO2 emissions and will continue to do so over time.

            But even at 50 MPG and $3/gallon fuel EVs are going to be very attractive – assuming equal initial purchase price.

            There’s going to be some per mile savings. Maintenance savings. Avoiding gas stations, especially in bad weather. Acceleration and quietness.

          • Michael G

            We agree on the end goals/results. I am with Musk – “no compromises”. Once EVs meet consumer expectations – 300 mile range, identical purchase price to ICEs, and similar variety of offerings to ICEs, they will take over and ICEs will be in museums.

            We might differ on when that will happen, but it will happen.

          • Michael G

            Also look at pg 27 ff for barriers needing to be addressed.

            “consumers perceive upfront cost to be a significant barrier, especially if the benefits and differences of electric drive are not understood.” Chart page 28 shows all buyers see up front cost as far more important than long term costs or resale value, pretty much identical for those for EVs, against EVs, and neutral.

            The US North East has the density, and popular opinion to support EV adoption but they also have high electricity prices, more condo/apt. dwellers and lower insolation. The cold winters substantially impact EV range. None of this is insurmountable but it means more time to overcome more barriers.

            Another potential barrier is that since EVs don’t buy gas, once EVs start to make an impact, states will likely charge road user fees to make up for lost gas tax revenue which could tilt further against EVs for a while.

            Once scenario is that fleet users adopt EVs once their daily mileage requirements are met because they are more likely to make accurate long-term cost judgments and have their own refueling station. Meanwhile hybrids contribute to lowering battery costs, battery energy/kg increases, early adopters (16% of the survey) buy more and you start the snowball rolling.

            Widespread EV adoption will take a while, is all I’m saying, while the opportunity for utility solar mentioned in the inteview is right here, right now. And this solar will make an impact in the developing world where most new power plants will be built.

          • Michael G

            Increasing EVs reduces demand for oil reducing the oil price reducing the price incentive to get EVs.

            There are a lot of issues to be solved. Battery capacity is only one issue. Chargers are a big issue. Having 3 charging standards out there confuses people. Will they have to replace home chargers if they change mfgr’s?

            There is also a chicken-egg issue. An apt./condo/business isn’t going to put in a charger for one person who is likely to move. Even if they did the person is likely to wonder what will happen if they change apts/condo/jobs – will there be a charger at the next place? Places won’t put in more chargers unless there are more users. There won’t be more users if there aren’t more chargers.

            “consumers discount future fuel savings at 20%—i.e., saving $1,000 of gasoline in the next year is perceived as only saving $800 in the present—[more accurate] would be closer to 4%” (pg 28)

            “Fleet operators are much more aware of operating costs and are willing to pay 10‐14% more than consumers are for an electric or hybrid … However, … potential fuel and other operating cost savings do not necessarily factor into the initial cost‐benefit analysis…” (pg 29)

            The NE US has some of the highest electric rates outside of Hawaii and Alaska, so the advantage of electric charging vs. gasoline diminishes. “As of 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) estimated that only 5% of customers in the nation are on some form of time‐based rate or incentive‐based program.” (pg 34)

            “Charging at average NYC ConEdison electricity rates of $0.27 per kWhv [ = ] payback period of 13.05 years whereas charging at special EV off‐peak and time‐variant rates results in a payback period of 3.45 years.” (pg 35)

            All solveable problems, but it isn’t going to happen overnight.

            It is 35 years since Pres. Carter put PV panels on the White House. Every year for the past 35 years it was “we’re almost there – 2-3 year more years and we’ll see an explosion.” I’m hearing the same thing now about EVs.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, you’ve identified a lot of factors which could slow EV uptake. But I think you’re missing the main point of my post.

            Falling battery prices, which is rapidly happening, will make EV purchase price the same or less than the purchase price of a same-model ICEV.

            Fuel savings begin on day 1. Maintenance savings begin on day 1. Convenience begins on day 1. More enjoyable driving begins on day 1.

            Over 50% of all US drivers already have a place to plug in. That’s over 125,000,000 ICEVs that could be swapped out for EVs and plugged in tonight.

          • Michael G

            We’ll see in a few years, won’t we? Until battery prices fall we won’t really know how fast the uptake is. At this point it is all speculation. I thought hybrids would be 90% of the market by now – after all who wouldn’t want to cut their fuel bill in half? They have barely made a dent in the overall market.

          • Mint

            Hybrids don’t cut fuel bills in half. You’re looking at 30% reduction at most (Camry, Fusion) and <10% in other cases (BMW 335i vs ActiveHybrid 3) for $4-6k price premium. Payback time for a Camry or Fusion, even with $4/gal gas, is ~100k miles. Yes, a Prius gets 50 mpg, but not everyone wants such a lethargic car.

            A plugin cuts your fuel bill by 70%+. If they can get down to a cost premium of $5k or less, that's a much more enticing proposition, especially if they have acceleration like an i3 or Tesla (which all EVs should have in volume, given how cheap the cost floor of the motor+inverter is).

          • Michael G

            Actually, I am missing your point. Once batteries reach the price you are talking what happens in your view? Does everyone in the US immediately get an EV? That is 15 M cars and SUVs = 30 Gigafactories worth of batteries. Or is there a gradual ramp up as people, businesses, shopping centers, apt. complexes all get chargers? Any estimate on how fast is the ramp up to 50% of annual US auto sales? That would be 7.5M cars = 15 Gigafactories. Just asking.

          • Bob_Wallace

            My point – At some point battery price should fall to the point at which EVs are cheaper to purchase than ICEVs. When that happens we’ll see the end of the ICE.

            Before that happens we will likely see significant EV sales because a lot of people will be able to do the payoff math and others will want to “do the right thing”.

            The charging issues will likely be behind us well before then. We should have the ability to drive about anywhere in the more developed world with a 200 mile range EV. At some point the industry will likely settle on a standard plug (I suspect we aren’t ready for that yet). Apartment building owners will be putting in charge outlets in order to attract tenants and/or to make some money. Businesses will be putting in charge outlets as an employee perk or to make some money.

            Like most technology shifts I’d expect EV adoption to start slow (we’re there) and to ramp up rapidly as soon as EVs are a bit better than ICEVs in some aspects and no worse in others. That means range up and cost down.

            We’ll see a move from <1% of new car sales to over 80% new car sales being EVs over a decade or so. Perhaps faster if prices drop significantly below ICEVs. Then it wil take about 20 years to get residual ICEVs off the road with most of them gone in 15 years. Demand is likely to be low for a used ICEV, especially inefficient ones. Used ICEVs will probably head to the crusher at an earlier age than they do now, it won't make sense to replace an engine or transmission.

            If we do move to EVs (and nothing is written in stone) we'll be building a lot of battery factories. But remember, we've got a lot of engine, radiator, exhaust system, transmission factories that we will no longer need.

          • Michael G

            We substantially agree. The timeline is so far out anything can happen and so not worth the pixels to discuss.

        • just_jim

          Note the words “because they may be uncertain about new products like PEVs.”

          That implies that once PEVs become products that people are familiar with and confident about, their concerns may change, and the time horizon expand.

          We don’t need any improvements in PEVs for that to happen, just time and experience of current EV users will work to change peoples perceptions of EVs. In other words, time is on EVs side

    • Larmion

      You’re forgetting to mention one of the biggest kahunas of all: heating (both process heat and building heating). Cleaning up that will be one of the biggest challenges of this century.

      Home heating can be done with heat pumps, but uptake has been low. Process heat though? CSP works if you happen to be in a desert, but beyond that little has been achieved. Biomass perhaps, but that’s in limited supply and not always sustainably sourced.

      • Jan Veselý

        When you have regular time periods of “dirt cheap” electricity, than it is simple to use electricity to produce heat (heat pumping or resistance heating). One day heat/cold storage is not a problem. Moreover is provides much bigger user comfort, scalability and accuracy than burning some stuff.
        And there is stil huge elephant in the room, you can avoid the need for heating.

      • Michael G

        Let us not forget magnetic heating and cooling. I think it will come much sooner than people think. It is exotic now, but could be common once production ramps up and costs come down and interia is overcome.

        http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/176393-ge-develops-high-tech-fridge-magnets-that-could-save-the-world-billions-of-dollars-in-energy-costs

      • Mint

        The only possible cure for process heat, IMO, is small modular molten nuclear. Even if a renewable generator would sell for 0c/kWh, transmission costs alone to industry centers are several times more expensive than natural gas.

        Wind-sourced liquid/gas fuels have a tough time competing with gasoline. NG is at least 5x cheaper than that per BTU, and coal cheaper still.

    • Mint

      http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/images/ghgemissions/sources-overview.png

      In the US, it’s 32% electricity and 28% transportation.

      We certainly need a clean grid to cleanly electrify transport, but electricity generation does not dwarf transport in GHG emissions like you imply. When it comes to urban air pollution, electricity generation is a much smaller contributor than transport, so that needs to be taken into consideration (especially since it’s orders of magnitude more deadly than GHG).

      You’re right about the speed of EV adoption, though. I’m thinking 20 years before they hit 50% of new sales worldwide. Over 60% of new cars are bought by people over 50, who grew up idolizing the rumble of the ICE. Also, trucks are going to have to use NG or H2.

      • Michael G

        You dind’t provide a link to the source for that so here is mine.

        http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/tbla18.pdf

        It substantially agrees with your chart but look at the details and you find that e.g., the “industry” sector includes a large amt for electricity.

        It is a very misleading chart/table since it mixes electricity in with everything and then counts it separately too. If all you see is the chart, it is reasonable to suppose that non-electric uses like gas heating or leaf burning accounts for all residential GHG since electricity has it’s own pie slice. On the contrary, electricity is 80% of residential and commercial. Go to the table I linked to and you will see what I mean.

        Much of the natural gas contribution can be replaced with electricity for cooking, hot water, or heating. Some of the petroleum for heating can be replaced with electicity as well. Petroleum is 44% of CO2 emissions. Petroleum for transport is 33%.

        • Mint

          Read the footnotes, as it makes sense once you do. The electric power subsection is the total of industrial+commercial+residential, but broken down by fuel source.

          I wonder if some sources are being ignored in the EIA analysis, as both electricity and transport are higher shares than in the chart I posted, but it still shows that electricity generation is only slightly more significant in GHG emissions than transport.

          Very little petroleum is used for heat. The difference between the total and transport is mostly for chemical processes in industry.

          But on the topic of industrial heat, electricity is expensive. 1GJ from natural gas costs around $6 for industry ($3 henry hub). 1GJ = 278kWh, or $30+ from electricity.

          • Michael G

            I read the foot notes. Since I don’t know where you got your info, I can’t comment on discrepancies between your chart and the EIA data. Possibly your chart is for the whole world while the EIA link I provided is looking only at the US.

          • Mint

            It’s from the EPA (look at there image URL). Here’s the source:
            http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html

            But forget about that and just focus on your EIA data. The point is that transportation is almost as big an emitter as electricity generation.

            When you say, “If you had to choose between eliminating all GHG emissions from either all transportation (cars, planes, trains, etc.) or all electriicty generation you would absolutley choose to clean up electricity generation”, the answer is no, I absolutely would not. They’re almost the same in GHG emissions, and transportation emissions are far worse for air quality.

          • Michael G

            Obviously you would like to do both, but if you had to choose would you choose having all cars, trains, etc., on electricity generated by coal and NG? Clean up the source of electricity or the cars aren’t really green.

            From a practical matter, it is easier to convince a relatively few people responsible for electricity generation – utility CEOs and Energy ministers – to put in wind & solar which is cost competitive now than to convince every auto buyer to go electric in some future, which may be soon but it isn’t now.

            Also, you aren’t going to run ships and planes on electricity soon so the easist (and it isn’t very easy) is to electrify cars. That is 18% of GHG emissions by the EIA. Not a lot of bang for the buck. That could take a while even once we get 300 mile range, chargers everywhere, and cost competitive EVs.

            Everyone has some study showing EVs will be cost competitive “real soon now” but they aren’t ready now while wind and solar are. So I’ll take the one ready now if I have to choose.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There is no need nor requirement to choose. You’ve created a false conundrum. It’s like the “nuclear or coal” phoney choice.

            Clearly we continue to do both, green our grids and develop electrified transportation. And work on energy efficiency as well.

            EVs and a renewable grid feed each other. Research into batteries benefit both. EVs can be excellent dispatchable loads which would make it easier to incorporate more wind and solar on the grid without needing additional storage.

            We’re in the process of moving off fossil fuels. Wind and solar technologies are more advanced than EV/battery technology, work started in earnest earlier. Batteries are coming on strong so expect EV technology (range and price) to take a big leap in the next couple of years.

            This comment was made in a recent article…
            ​​
            “All the talk from wholesale suppliers of batteries are that prices are coming down in 2015, and we are not talking about 10% discounts when you buy in bulk. The battery-price-freefall is coming.”

            Accurate? Don’t know. But clearly something is happening with all the battery factory construction and the movement of major manufacturers toward EVs.

            How about rather than “this or that?” we go with a “I’ll have some more of both, please”.

          • Michael G

            Nor did I say there was any requirement to choose. I made a throwaway comment that with oil prices way down and people moving away from clean cars to dirty cars, it was nice to have some good news on solar. You make it seem like I’m Rupert Murdoch or something. Pick a fight with someone else. Since you seem anxious to distort everything I write you get the last word. I suppose that means you win. Happy?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t want it. ;o)

          • Mint

            Why would we build more coal to run EVs? Virtually all new generation comes from NG, wind, and solar.

            Practicality is one thing, but if you’re making a theoretical choice, I choose transport. The biggest reason is that pollution from transport is orders of magnitude more deadly than GHGs.

            I’ll do a quick back of envelope calculation here. There’s a breakdown of transportation VMT here:
            http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_35.html

            Let’s say we can magically electrify most of the 3 trillion road miles at an average 2 miles per kWh (efficient EVs do twice that, but trucks bring that down). So say we pretend clean energy doesn’t exist, and we add 1500 TWh generation from CCGT (6 MMBTU/MWh). At 53 kg CO2/MMBTU, that’s ~0.5B tCO2/yr. Let’s say the grid is cleaned up linearly over 40 years (i.e. in 20 years that’s 0.25B tCO2/yr), so we get 10B tonnes CO2, increasing atmospheric CO2 by ~0.6ppm (35B tCO2/yr is currently resulting in 2ppm/yr increase), and global temperatures by ~0.0004 deg C according to the IPCC.

            Four thousandths of a degree is the GHG cost we’re looking at, even assuming it’s all powered by NG (which isn’t true even today). This would prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths per year and respiratory problems for millions.

            In the end it’s a question that has no bearing in reality, but don’t underestimate the importance of cleaning up transportation for the environment.

      • Michael G

        Nissan notes a DROP in the average age of EV buyers to >51< years old.

        http://www.plugincars.com/leaf-average-customer-age-dropping-128635.html

        People over 50 have more money so they buy a greater %-age of all new cars, including EVs. As the cost of EVs drops so will the age of buyers.

    • Epicurus

      “With the price of oil down . . . , we may have to resign ourselves to little progress on EV popularization for a few years”

      You can “fill up” an EV for the equivalent of $1 per gallon, and there are virtually no maintenance costs for EVs. People would buy them if the manufacturers would advertise them.

  • JamesWimberley

    For the record, the Brazilian price of 8.7 $c/watt is the PPA strike price for the first federal solar-only reverse auction, announced in November (link). At that price, 890 MW was bought from 31 projects. By the nature of an auction, some of the projects must have bid less. We don’t know how much less for the cheapest, or which developer offered it.

    We also don’t know how many will be built. The constraint on Brazilian developers is mainly access to cheap loans from the giant state development bank BNDES, which imposes tough local-content requirements. Several plans have been announced for local solar panel fabs, but these don’t add up to 890 MW a year. Still, it’s remarkable that Brazil, with no track record at all in utility solar, is already getting prices as good as those in the US Southwest.

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