By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
China will have installed 54 gigawatts of new solar energy by the end of 2017, instead of the 15 gigawatts forecast last January or the 30 gigawatts forecast as late as last June.
As of last June, the US installed solar capacity was only 47 gigawatts, accounting for less than 2% of American electricity generation. That is, China is putting in more solar energy in 2017 than has ever been installed in the whole history of the United States. The US was installing an anemic 2.5 gigawatts a quarter this year, way down from the 20 gigs of new solar it did in 2016. Republican, dirty-oil politicians in many states have adopted punitive policies intended to hurt solar and help fossil fuels, at the sow-like teats of which their political campaigns suck.
Not only is the sheer amount of solar power generation increasing at blinding speed but the cost is plummeting in unrigged markets, as well. Mexico just accepted bids of 1.77 cents per kilowatt hour. That is, if you had 10 light bulbs with a brightness of 100 watts each, and you burned them for one hour using electricity generated by the solar farm to be built in Mexico by 2020, that would cost you 1.7 cents. In most states in the US it would now cost you 8 cents to 22 cents, if the electricity were generated by coal and natural gas.
Mexico has pledged to get 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2025, but unless they up their game, this goal seems unrealistic. Still, at these prices, it costs them a lot of money *not* to go solar by 2025.
How would you like your electricity bill to fall by 80% or 90%? (I have solar panels on my house in cloudy Michigan and my electricity bill since last May has been averaging $14 a month).
Moreover, in Mexico the cost of a kilowatt hour from solar is expected to fall yet again by 2019 to only 1 cent a KWh. Coal is generally estimated to generate electricity for 5 cents a kilowatt hour, so it is now 3 times as expensive as the cheaper solar, and it is headed toward being 5 times as expensive by the time Trump is running for reelection. Nuclear costs 12 cents a kilowatt hour. Of course those prices don’t count externalities. If you count the damage coal does to the environment, from producing pollution that causes heart attacks to producing heat trapping gases that cause global heating and hurricanes, then coal is more like a dollar per kilowatt hour. It isn’t even remotely in the same league with solar.
In a new Climate Change Performance Index, the top three positions have been left blank because no country is really doing what it needs to do in order to stop climate change.
But Lithuania is number 5, Morocco is 6, Norway is 7.
India ranks 14, mainly because so many hundreds of millions of Indians are still without electricity.
Germany is 24.
About the US, you don’t want to ask.