SOLAR POWERED: A cyclist on a cross-country camping jaunt pauses in a California state park to charge his laptop from a folding solar array. Image: Flickr/docentjoyce

 

Can Solar Challenge Natural Gas?

A new report from Citigroup argues that solar panel installations will surpass expectations as its cost falls below that of the most expensive gas-fired power plants

By Special to E&E and ClimateWire

Large consumer electronic brands are likely to enter the solar energy market and fuel a worldwide boom in panel installations that will surpass most expectations as the rooftop technology becomes cheaper than gas, a report by Citigroup says.

Although worldwide solar installations grew by an average of 59 percent per year from 2007 to 2012, much of that advance was due to subsidies and legislation mandating solar spending. That’s about to change, according to the report.

Solar has reached residential parity in many regions, and utility-scale parity will follow over the next few years. Some U.S. utilities are already choosing to build solar farms instead of gas plants to deliver peak loads based on pure economics.

“In Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia and the South-West of the U.S., residential-scale solar has already reached grid-parity with average residential electricity prices,” Citigroup analysts Shar Pourreza, Jason Channell and Timothy Lam wrote in their report. “In other countries grid parity is not far away. We forecast that grid parity will be attained by Japan in 2014-2016, South Korea in 2016-2020 and by the U.K. in 2018-2021.”

On the other hand, China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia will not attain grid parity until after 2020, despite good solar conditions in some regions, due to their low residential electricity prices, which are subsidized by the state, the report says.

Read more: Can Solar Challenge Natural Gas?: Scientific American.

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