A new report out from MIT’s MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), “The Future of Solar Energy,” found that solar energy is likely the best option to meet humanity’s energy needs in the future. But it cautions that we need to make changes to realize the potential. Chief among the recommendations in the report is an emphasis on revisiting incentive programs.
The study was prepared for senior administration officials lawmakers in Washington where it will be presented this week. “Our objective has been to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in U.S. government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support its massive deployment over the long term, which we view as necessary,” explained MITEI Director Robert Armstrong, the Chevron Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT.One of the things the study found is that for solar power to be successful as a solution to reducing greenhouse gasses and providing for the world’s energy needs, the U.S. needs to prioritize how it incentivizes solar. “Subsidies for solar technologies would be much more effective per taxpayer dollar spent if they rewarded generation, not investment,” the report stated.
It found that utility-scale deployment of solar power is much more efficient than residential solar power “PV generation by residential systems is, on average, about 70 percent more costly than from utility-scale PV plants,” the report said.
The study also found that the U.S.’s incentive programs have tilted toward incentivizing deployment of solar power to achieve near-term cost reductions. However, to realize the full potential of solar power the country should focus on more solar R&D. “What the study shows is that our focus needs to shift toward new technologies and policies that have the potential to make solar a compelling economic option,” asserted Richard Schmalensee, the Howard W. Johnson professor emeritus of Economics and Management at MIT.
Another looming factor is preparing the energy grid for more solar penetration, according to the report. As such the study recommends more R&D in the area of energy storage to allow the grid to compensate for high levels of solar power and the variability of energy solar farms will produce throughout the day.Tweet