"Global solar dominance in sight as science trumps fossil fuels."

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph: “Solar power has won the global argument. Photovoltaic energy is already so cheap that it competes with oil, diesel and liquefied natural gas in much of Asia without subsidies.”
“Roughly 29pc of electricity capacity added in America last year came from solar, rising to 100pc even in Massachusetts and Vermont. “More solar has been installed in the US in the past 18 months than in 30 years,” says the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). California’s subsidy pot is drying up but new solar has hardly missed a beat.
The technology is improving so fast – helped by the US military – that it has achieved a virtous circle. Michael Parker and Flora Chang, at Sanford Bernstein, say we entering a new order of “global energy deflation” that must ineluctably erode the viability of oil, gas and the fossil fuel nexus over time. In the 1980s solar development was stopped in its tracks by the slump in oil prices. By now it has surely crossed the threshold irreversibly.
The ratchet effect of energy deflation may be imperceptible at first since solar makes up just 0.17pc of the world’s $5 trillion energy market, or 3pc of its electricity. The trend does not preclude cyclical oil booms along the way. Nor does it obviate the need for shale fracking as a stop-gap, for national security reasons or in Britain’s case to curb a shocking current account deficit of 5.4pc of GDP.
But the technology momentum goes only one way. “Eventually solar will become so large that there will be consequences everywhere,” they said. This remarkable overthrow of everthing we take for granted in world energy politics may occur within “the better part of a decade”.
….A McKinsey study said the average cost of installed solar power in the US across all sectors has dropped to $2.59 from more than $6 a watt in 2010. It expects this fall to $2.30 by next year and $1.60 by 2020. This will put solar within “striking distance” of coal and gas, it said.
Solar cell prices have already collapsed so far that other “soft costs” now make up 64pc of residential solar installation in the US. Germany has shown that this too can be slashed, partly by sheer scale.
….It is hard to keep up with the cascade of research papers emerging from brain-trusts in North America, Europe and Japan, so many brimming with optimism.
….Professor Michael Aziz, at Harvard University, is developing a flow-battery with funding from the US Advanced Research Projects Agency over the next three years that promises to cut the cost of energy storage by two-thirds below the latest vanadium batteries used in Japan.
He said the technology gives us a “fighting chance” to overcome the curse of intermittency from wind and solar power, which both spike and drop off in bursts. “I foresee a future where we can vastly cut down on fossil fuel use.”
….Deutsche Bank say there are already 19 regional markets around the world that have achieved “grid parity”, meaning that PV solar panels can match or undercut local electricity prices without subsidy: California, Chile, Australia, Turkey, Israel, Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain and Greece, for residential power, as well as Mexico and China for industrial power.
This will spread as battery storage costs – often a spin-off from electric car ventures – keep dropping. Sanford Bernstein says it may not be long before home energy storage is cheap enough to lure households away from the grid en masse across the world.
Utilities that fail to adapt fast will face “disaster”.
….Michael Liebreich, from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says we can already discern the moment of “peak fossil fuels” around 2030, the tipping point when the world starts using less coal, oil and gas in absolute terms, but because they cannot compete, not because they are running out.
This is a remarkable twist of history. Just six years ago we faced an oil shock with crude trading at $148. The rise of “Chindia” and the sudden inclusion of 2bn consumers into the affluent world seemed to be taxing resources to breaking point. Now we can imagine how China will fuel its future fleet of 400m vehicles. Many may be electric, charged by PV modules.
….For the world it portends a once-in-a-century upset of the geostrategic order.”