A Decade of Transformation: Clean Energy Costs (Text Version)

This is the text version of the video A Decade of Transformation: Clean Energy Costs.

Ryan Wiser, senior scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, RE Futures researcher: Let me give you a couple of points of comparison to just illustrate really how wrong we were in renewable electricity futures and how much more rapidly costs have declined than we anticipated 10 years ago.

[Music]

Text on screen: A Decade of Transformation: Clean Energy Costs

Trieu Mai, senior researcher, NREL: A decade ago, renewable technologies including wind and solar were considerably more costly than natural gas, in particular, and even renewables' projected costs were still considerably higher than the cost of fossil fuels.

Ryan Wiser: We thought that utility-scale solar projects in the U.S. in 2050 would cost roughly $2,500/kW. In the year 2022, we saw actual utility-scale solar projects at $1,000/kW. The same story for land-based wind and battery storage.

Maureen Hand, air resources engineer, California Air Resources Board, RE Futures researcher: I don't think anybody really envisioned how quickly many of the advances could materialize.

Trieu Mai: On the wind side, you know, turbines have gotten much larger, which made them both have a cost reduction in terms of economies of scale, as well as being able to capture more of that wind resource and convert it to electricity. On the solar side, you have the same factors occurring, and the technologies have been improving.  And so both—kind of the efficiency side but really on the manufacturing side—being able to mass-produce solar PV modules is really to drop the cost.

Ryan Wiser: In the renewable electricity futures study 10 years ago, we were expecting that hitting an 80% renewable energy share might impose an incremental cost for a typical retail electricity consumer in the U.S., of something on the order of $30–$60/MWh. The most recent modeling is showing around $5/MWh.

Maureen Hand: At the time, it was something that people hadn't really opened their minds to consider. Renewable energy was a very small part of the … of the energy mix, and the idea of generating as much as 80% of our electricity from renewables was really a thought experiment that many people hadn't really considered at the time.

Trieu Mai: It was a groundbreaking result because no one had really looked at such scenarios with such rigor, and so we pushed the envelope, you know, much, much harder.

Maureen Hand: Today, people can actually think about producing all of our energy from renewable sources or most of our energy from renewable sources.

Trieu Mai: In some of our analysis, the 80% level can be achieved a decade or more earlier than the 2050 target from the RE Futures study.

[Music]

Text on screen: Learn more about NREL's RE Futures Study at bit.ly/REFutures.