We tend to focus on the electric car revolution here at Gas2 but it can never be complete until the electricity to power all those electric cars we crave comes from clean, renewable energyble sources that don’t spew millions of tons of pollutants into the air. “It’s just business,” as Donald Trump would say. When renewables are cheaper than conventional power, utilities will switch over to them and wave goodbye to fossil fuels without a backward glance.
The U.S. Department of Energy has just released the 2016 update of its Revolution Now — Accelerating Clean Energy Deployment report, which contains some pretty remarkable news. With help from government policies around the world, economies of scale have brought the cost of renewable energy down faster than most people ever expected. “The clean energy revolution is too often always assumed to be something that would come along in 10 to 20 years,” Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz said as the report was released on September 28. “The message is: look around, it’s happening now.”
A chart contained in the report demonstrates how quickly prices have dropped in the past few years for solar, wind, LED lights, batteries, and electric cars.
Probably the most important aspect of the chart is the precipitous fall in battery storage prices. While battery costs are a vital piece of the green car revolution, they are even more important to making grad scale electrical power possible. It’s no secret that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Storing the energy that solar and wind turbines create will be key to replacing fossil fuels as the primary provider of electrical power.
As prices drop, grid scale storage is growing at a phenomenal rate. The Department of Energy says it has increased by a factor of ten since 2008. “Analysts expect both utility and consumer scale batteries to decline in cost by another 20–27 percent in just the next two years,” it says in this latest report. The DOE predicts “the total domestic energy storage market could be worth $2.9 billion by 2021, as compared to $350 million in 2015.”
Many utility companies are opposed to rooftop solar. Of course they are. It threatens the protected monopoly they have enjoyed for the past 100 years. They keep trying to reduce or eliminate the payments they make to homeowners and small businesses who send excess electricity back into the grid. Hefty special fees for rooftop solar customers are designed to discourage people from putting solar panels on their roofs.
But affordable residential battery storage will change all that. As prices drop, people will be able to create and store all the electricity they need without any help from the local utility. Changes in rules and regulations will allow neighborhoods to set up micro-grids of their own.
The renewable energy revolution has begun. Together with the electric cars that are already on sale and the ones that are coming soon, the dream of a zero emissions world is now much closer to reality.
Source: Think Progress Chart: Department of Energy