U.S. Energy Secretary: Solar and wind energy now cost-competitive without subsidies
And they'll only get cheaper over time...U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who trained as a nuclear physicist, believes that the price of solar and wind power have fallen so dramatically that the market for them can now grow without subsidies. Moniz told reporters that the Obama administration supports Congress' extension of renewable energy tax credits, but "I certainly see solar growing" even "without subsidy" and the cost reductions have "been incredible" for the solar industry, making for an improved "value proposition ... in many contexts."
He said the cost of electricity from rooftop solar panels could fall to as low as 6 cents per kilowatt hour very soon, which makes it "extremely competitive" with natural gas and other fossil and non-fossil power plants.
The cost of wind also has fallen dramatically in the last year, making the electricity produced by wind farms cost competitive with fossil fuels such as natural-gas-fired power plants, according to a report issued earlier this month by the Energy Department. (source)
A report on wind technology from a few weeks ago said: "Lower wind turbine prices and installed project costs, along with improvements in expected [production capacity], are enabling aggressive wind power pricing" The report shows that prices dropped from nearly 7 cents/kWH in 2009 to 2.35 cents/kWh in 2014, which is pretty incredible (it's not that low everywhere, but over time it should keep going down). The report says the cost trend placed wind "below the bottom of the range" of nationwide power prices in 2014. That makes wind power very competitive against natural gas power generation through 2040, according to projections.
This doesn't mean that all subsidies should immediately dropped or anything drastic like that, though. The fossil fuel industry has had billions and billions and billions in help over decades and decades, and they still receive all kinds of favored treatment. I think we can keep pushing clean energy for a while to help it replace dirty sources of power faster than it would without the help. If we want to save a few bucks somewhere, we should cut fossil fuel subsidies instead. There's a lot more fat to cut there anyway...
National Renewable Energy Laboratory photo/Public Domain