This is, in fact, good news.
It's further evidence that the market is moving toward real energy solutions. Headlines from a new IEA report on renewables are a call for more favorable policies, but renewable energy “now accounts for almost a fifth of all electricity produced worldwide.”
What's really happening is that opportunity is starting to dawn. The market is taking over from the policy advocates. If you want change, bet on the market.
Let's take them at their word. How might that be achieved?
Cut production costs one-third, or improve efficiency by one-third at current costs.
Cut installation costs by one-third.
Cut channel costs by one-third.
There is absolutely no doubt that this is going to happen, probably sooner than you think.
First Solar has already demonstrated efficiency of 19.3%, against the 11.7% offered by present cells. I mention them because they're a low-cost producer of systems that don't require polysilicon, which is subject to the current U.S.-China “trade war”.
Integrating connection systems with panels cuts installation costs. So does cutting costs, or increasing the efficiency, of inverters. Job done. And we haven't even talked about Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), where you're putting solar collection technology on windows and walls, easy as paint.
What's it take to install a panel today? Tons of government approvals, a specialty supplier with a specialty contract, and not all providers are licensed in all states. Two word: Home Depot. I guarantee this stuff will be in Home Depot within five years. Job done.
I'm not talking here about unannounced breakthroughs in materials science (like biological materials) or dramatic increases being reported every year not just in efficiency but in the use of wavelengths other than visible light. I'm not talking about the increasing costs of fossil fuel energy, the huge amounts of money you have to put, now, into nuclear or damage you have to ignore, with gas fracking. I'm not talking about the cost of moving power from a remote power plant to a local customer, money you don't have to spend if the customer is local.
What's happening now, within the industry, is enough to get us to convergence by 2016. Once that happens demand outstrips supply, not the other way around. Once that happens capital floods into the space, and costs decline even further as this becomes a mass market.
What analysts like Elliott Morss fail to conceive of, in their analyses of the energy market, are the powerful economic forces unleashed by this approaching convergence. As though solar production can't scale. As though all these big numbers he shows on the use of coal, gas, oil, and nuclear were problems, not opportunities.
Because when renewables become the cheap energy that's what they are, opportunities. Market opportunities. A chance for people to make money by making, selling, and installing stuff that pays for itself in reduced fossil fuel use. The biggest market opportunity of your lifetime.
Who needs treaties when you have Adam Smith on your side?