The EIA recently came out with their 2017 projections. Its interesting to compare what has changed over six years. Since 2011 solar PV has reduced dramatically in price and grown significantly, so we would expect this to show up. Significantly, growth in solar and wind barely changes the EIA projections to 2050.
The EIA projections are generally disparaged by clean energy advocates as being inaccurate about clean energy. This criticism is correct, but because clean wind and solar are small overall contributors, the overall EIA world projections are accurate. The reductions in coal and nuclear are the most significant changes since 2011 and going forward. The EIA projected growth in renewables is still significant if probably underestimated. Hydro is still larger than wind and solar in 2107 but most of the growth in renewables is wind and solar so their EIA projected growth rates are significant, though from a low base.
While solar and wind have reduced significantly in cost, the unfortunate reality is they have yet to become competitive without subsidies in any market. There is no magic threshold where they suddenly become competitive without subsidies. It will start slowly in the markets with the best resources and expand to less endowed markets as costs reduce. As growth occurs new impediments like backup, storage and transmission/distribution will rear their ugly heads and act as a brake on growth, as is being illustrated by early adopters like California and Germany. Nothing in this scenario allows for sudden and exponential growth to occur as happened with computers, cell phones and other mass market products.
The EIA projections are in line with other world energy projections from IEA, BP, Shell etc. Even boosters like Bloomberg and Lazard don’t project renewables as the dominant provider of energy, only electricity. The trends point to renewables perhaps replacing fossil fuels by the turn of the century, fifty years too late for CO2 stabilization at below 450ppm.
The StratoSolar message has been that economics matter and current solar PV has many economic problems that will keep it from becoming a replacement for fossil fuels for a long time to come. StratoSolar solves all these problems. Time is marching on.
By Edmund Kelly