The price of five clean energy technologies have dropped upto 94% in the last eight years, largely due to research and investment,according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The decline in price, which come from "decades" offederal and private sector investments, have also increased the deployment ofthose technologies and enabled their widespread adoption, the DOE said in "Revolution… Now: The Future Arrives for Five Clean Energy Technologies — 2016 Update."
The report examined land-based wind, utility-scalephotovoltaics, distributed photovoltaics, electric vehicle batteries and LEDlights and how the cost drops in those technologies can be part of the solutionto climate change.
The report also updated a previous edition in 2015. Energytechnology innovations highlighted in the 2015 version were part of the "theme"of what the U.S. brought to the table at the U.N. climate negotiations inParis, according to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
Wind and solar PV represented two-thirds of all newelectricity generating capacity installed in the U.S. in 2015, making up a "bigpiece of the capacity pie," the 2016 report said.
Wind power capacity has close to tripled since 2008, thereport found, and has grown by 12% since 2014. In 2015, it represented 41% ofall new capacity installed across the nation. The same year, close to 74,000 MWof utility-scale wind power was deployed across 41 states and territories,which is enough to provide electricity to more than 17 million households. Ithas also contributed to a reduction of annual carbon dioxide, or CO2, emissionsby more than 132 million metric tons.
Government funding in wind research and development, such as$2.4 billion invested by the DOE between 1976 and 2014 in key technologyimprovements like taller wind turbines and longer blades, helped contribute tocost decreases and increases in deployment, according to the report.
Investments in transmission infrastructure, like therecently completed Texas Competitive Renewable Energy Zone transmissionbuild-out, have helped spur development.
State renewable portfolio standards and federal productiontax credits have also provided mandates and financial incentives to windprojects, increasing their value relative to other generation technologies, theDOE said.
Utility-scale solar PV accounted for 15% of all newlyinstalled capacity in 2015, according to the report. Installation costs havedropped more than 64% since 2008 "to a new low of $2.08/Watt," whichthe report called "record" low prices for solar powered electricity.
"Only five years ago, contracts for utility-scale PVpower were commonly at [10 cents]/kWh," the DOE said in the report. "Asof 2015 average prices are well below [5 cents]/kWh, with a number of futureprojects already planned to deliver electricity below [3.5 cents]/kWh."
The report noted this is partly because of where theprojects are located "in excellent solar resource locations" andbecause of the federal investment tax credit.
More solar is also being purchased by non-utility consumers,the report noted. "Corporations are increasingly realizing the benefits ofdirectly procuring solar power from developers. In 2015 more than 1,000 MW ofsolar PV capacity was contracted by corporations representing the retail,finance, technology, and manufacturing industries, and this amount hasquadrupled over the amount contracted in 2014."
While there are challenges to the clean energy technologieshighlighted in the report, they are transforming how the country uses andproduces energy and are a "significant part of the energy landscape rightnow," the DOE said.
"We can and should plan on using them to clean our air,drive energy independence, and help build an economy that is more competitiveand more efficient, all while reducing carbon pollution," the reportconcluded.
"This report is further proof that our commitment toclean energy and American innovation can lead to steep cost reductions andsharp increases in the deployment of advanced technologies," Moniz said ina statement. "We need to continue pushing the innovation agenda that leadsto these kinds of dramatic cost reductions for all low-carbon technologies andincreases America's competitiveness and independence in the global clean energyeconomy."