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Why the Falling Cost of Solar Energy is Leading a New Power Revolution

In February this year Bill Gates predicted that within 15 years, a “clean energy breakthrough” would arrive to “save our planet and power our world”.

In his annual letter from his charitable foundation he summed it up succinctly as:

“A cheap, clean source of energy would change everything.”

And, of course, he’s right. When we look at issues surrounding failing fossil fuel reserves, the difficulty in sustaining emissions targets, the cost to both industry and individual households of high power bills, and the high demands of emerging countries’ energy consumption, it’s clear that all of us need to reconsider where our power comes from, how energy efficient our homes are and how we think about using electricity.

Harrisons Energy Solutions – like many people – believes that solar energy is precisely the “breakthrough” that Bill Gates is talking about and that we are playing our part in developing a technology that not only helps individuals save on their monthly power bills, but that can help drive down the overall cost of power around the globe as well as help preserve the environment in which we live.

Even the CEO of massive oil company Shell, Ben van Beurden said in 2015 that solar would one day become the “dominant backbone” of the world’s energy system – so now it seems more a matter of working out when and how that supremacy is going to happen.

Many experts in energy production talk about a “tipping point” – that moment that happened early this century with mobile phones and last century with motor vehicles when a mixture of demand and cost creates a huge surge in the uptake of a product.

And key to this “tipping point” is grid parity – when power from unsubsidised rooftop PV solar systems is less expensive from power bought from the grid – something that this year’s UN-sponsored World Energy Council report says is already happening in many counties around the world.

The full report revealed that “global installed capacity for solar-powered electricity has seen an exponential growth [and] produced 1% of all electricity used globally” while noting that “costs for solar power are falling rapidly – ‘grid parity’ has been achieved in many countries, while new markets for the solar industry are opening in emerging and developing nations”.

In this climate of expansion and investment, you the consumer can benefit greatly from new innovations and cheaper costs of the components required to convert the sun’s rays to your home’s energy needs.

In other words, the more of us take up solar power, the cheaper that power becomes and the more savings you can make on you power bills.

Stanford University lecturer Tony Seba told the Sydney Morning Herald during a visit over the Tasman earlier this year that once grid parity is achieved:

”…it is in every consumer’s selfish consumer interest to put up solar panels on every available rooftop because, for those hours of sunshine… central generation will never be able to compete with rooftop solar. Solar is going to eat everything.”

For someone like Tony Seba, grid parity is just the start of a revolution that sees solar power as a kind of Airbnb or Uber of the energy industry, where its disruptive model can combine with battery storage and electric vehicles to completely change the way individual households use power.

And for Harrisons, too, we see every solar system we sell as being a step towards a cleaner, greener environment where we can meet global emissions targets agreed at Paris and cheaper, more readily available energy generation and storage systems for everyone.

So if grid parity does lead us to that tipping point breakthrough of cheap, renewable energy, what are a few of the issues we still need to consider? The World Energy Council’s report said there were still issues facing a wholesale uptake of PV solar power:

  • Low oil prices mean that, despite ever-shrinking supplies, electricity generation may remain cost-effective for those still using fossil fuels.
  • As grid parity becomes real, government subsidies drop off and the industry needs to find innovative ways to grow the market.
  • It’s estimated that around 78 million tonnes of panels will be needed to be managed by 2050 as they come to the end of their useful life. The report notes that this could create a $US15 billion recycling and waste management industry as those 4500GW worth of panels could be used to recreate 630GW of new panels.

For more information about how you can make the most of the falling cost of PV systems and join the solar technology revolution – as well as making immediate savings to your power bill – you can contact Harrisons Energy on 0800 003354 or via the website. One of our solar experts will visit you to tailor a personalised solar plan to suit your home and your household and let you know how any installed system will be future-proofed against any new storage and generation innovations.