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The simplest first step to achieving net zero is to build massive amounts of solar energy

By on October 18, 2021 0


As the Nationals worried on Sunday how they might support a net zero target for 2050 without knowing exactly what technology would be burying the last tons of Co2 in three decades (the answer is we don’t know, and we don’t we don’t need to know for now), the solar showed what could be done in the short term.

Just before noon Sunday (grid time), solar established a new share of Australia’s power generation with 51.8%. It was the first time that it supplied more than half of the electricity needs of the main grid at any given time, for more than 2.5 hours.

Over the same weekend, the combined output of the black and coal generators fell to its lowest level, and minimum demand also fell below 13 GW for the first time (just a week after falling in below 14 GW for the first time), further reducing the operating space for the so-called “base” generation.

The grid is evolving, and it is evolving rapidly, whether the Nationals like it or not or Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Large utilities have now dismissed the idea of ​​’base load’ as a relevant business model, the market operator expects 100% renewables at times by 2025, and the greater The country’s transportation company says 91% of renewable energy (over a full year) can be delivered by 2030.

It’s a reminder of what can be achieved in the short term, and climate science tells us that the next 10 years, using the technologies we currently have, are crucial to successfully capping average global warming at 1, 5 ° C longer term. .

Even conservative business groups are now on board, as they can see the lower costs and immense business opportunities to seize the moment, and the cost of letting such opportunities slip through their hands.

One of the most prominent solar analysts in the world is Jenny Chase of Bloomberg NEF, who has written a book on the solar industry and updates it annually with a detailed Twitter thread. It provides some of the best industry information you can find.

There are too many details in more than 50 different parts of Chase’s last thread to report, but here is a summary of what we think are the highlights.

The first is the observation that solar may be the best option for achieving rapid emission reductions and cost savings, and a reminder of why even the IEA sees solar as the next market king. of energy and is now “the cheapest electricity in history”. .

“There’s never been a better time to plan for a lot of solar power,” Chase says in his tweets. “And many organizations are…. and the easiest first step to achieving net zero is often to build massive amounts of solar power. “

But here is the problem. Right now, the world is not building enough solar power and is on track to build around 3.3 TW of solar power by 2030, rather below the 5.3 TW that BNEF models suggest. that we need to achieve the goal of net zero by 2050.

The two biggest issues are getting connections and controlling price spikes in the supply chain.

“Solar power is now the cheapest bulk source of electricity in most sunny countries, and it is starting to be felt,” observes Chase. “Photovoltaics don’t need a breakthrough. Most of the time, solar developers just need a grid connection and / or authorization to sell electricity.

It’s not as easy as it should be, as many Australian developers can and will tell you. But the new emerging threat is falling prices for solar components, especially silicon, and transportation costs.

“We are in a time of dramatically increasing costs, unprecedented in my time,” said Chase.

“Metallic silicon has cost less than $ 2.5 / kg since before 2003, but in September 2021, it was above $ 10 / kg. (The) cost of a Shanghai-Rotterdam freight container was less than $ 3,000 since before 2011, but has dropped to $ 14,800 since October 2020. “

Chase notes that these costs are hitting sectors other than solar power as hard and that in the long run they could be positive for solar power, as soaring prices in energy markets invite more to spend. renewable energies. But she says it’s still a shock to an industry (and analysts) used to lowering prices for better technology every year.

“Prices for standard mono modules hit 27.3 cents per watt, the highest since early 2019, last week,” Chase observes, before adding a note of optimism: “(The) all-time low was 19 cents in July 2020. This tweet could age like milk, but I think prices will come down over 1 to 2 years and resume a slow decline driven by better technology. ”

Chase expects some solar projects with very low prices – less than US $ 25 / MWh – likely not to be built. She describes the even cheaper prices recorded in the Middle East as “opaque internal transfer prices and do not count.”

“We will likely see a few years of PPA price adjustment as solar developers push electricity buyers to higher prices on new projects. After the energy crisis, some of them will get higher prices, although Spain’s recent one-off tax on commercial renewable energy projects is a wake-up call. “

She says the solar supply chain needs to be more transparent, but she says the issue of recycling and creating a “circular economy” is not very urgent for solar because the vast majority of solar panels are used. still in use and at least for another decade. But this can be done.

Chase refuses to get excited about perovskites “until a perovskite company can disclose a partnership with a major module maker named,” and rejects floating solar power (that’s solar power on a boat) and “agrivoltaics” (solar energy in a field).

“PV only has synergies with * certain * agriculture. Competition for light and restricted mechanical access to crops are often problems. Existing Chinese agrivoltaic systems largely subsidize poor photovoltaic agriculture, ”she said.

“People are way too excited to put solar power on things that you can technically put solar power on, but maybe they shouldn’t care. Roofs of cars, roads, etc. If you step on it, drive on it, or park it in a garage, then put the solar somewhere else.

And, she says, there’s plenty of room for that. “There are enough golf courses in the United States for about 370 GW, ffs,” she writes. “There are also heaps and heaps of roofs, so let’s see those who oppose ground solar power support rooftop solar power at a higher cost.”