Jan 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Falling solar prices give Biden a head start on zero-carbon goal

a map of solar prices. Data: Wood Mackenzie; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios
Data: Wood Mackenzie; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We've written plenty about the big institutional and political headwinds facing Biden's agenda, so here's one of the tailwinds: falling prices for zero-carbon power tech.

Driving the news: A new analysis looking at one of them finds that utility-scale solar is already the cheapest form of new power generation in 16 states.

  • It's heading for that status nationwide by the late 2020s, the analysis from the consultancy Wood Mackenzie finds. "Faster technological advancement could even speed up the process," it concludes.
  • "[S]olar’s rapid ascent as the cheapest form of power generation comes at a time when federal support for solar capacity in the form of investment tax credits is winding down," it notes.

Why it matters: The report isn't about Biden's platform or U.S. politics. But it's worth noting that one of his more aggressive and challenging goals is 100% carbon-free power generation in the U.S. by 2035.

The big picture: Wood Mackenzie sees solar becoming the lowest-cost form of new generation in China, Canada and 14 other nations by 2030. Overall, it sees solar costs falling another 15%-25% over the next decade.

The intrigue: The report's cost decline estimates may be conservative. That estimate is "based solely on the technological improvements already in the early to mid-stage commercial pipeline and taking into account the likely phaseout of subsidies."

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