Steven Chu’s final remarks

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

In his final remarks as energy secretary, as reported last week, Steven Chu said that solar electricity would reach grid parity with any other form of energy within a decade and that utility companies would need to develop new business models to adapt to demand for PV.

Renewable technology development has been the hallmark for Chu's tenure as chief of the US Department of Energy (DoE). Since he was appointed in 2008, the Nobel prize-winning physicist established the SunShot Initiative to bring down the installed cost of solar to US$1/watt.

“The whole idea of our SunShot goal was within a decade we will be the world leader not only in the R&D part, but also in the demonstration and deployment and manufacturing part of these components,” he said.

“When we get to utility scale prices, US$0.06/kWh is a levelised cost which will be comparable to the estimate of the Energy Information Agency is projecting for new natural gas power 10 years from today. Without subsidy, solar power will be able to hold its own with any other form of energy.

“It's very exciting because it's important that we recognise that this is now within our grasp. It's getting close enough that you can touch it. This is not something that is going to happen 20-30 years from today, this is something that is going to happen 10 years from today and maybe even sooner.

“We're going further in reaching for the moon. We're reaching for the sun.”

During the DoE webinar alongside Joe Desmond, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Communications at BrightSource Energy, and Jeff Allen, Vice President of Business Development at Solar Junction, the outgoing secretary also said he would like to see utilities getting more involved in distributed solar.

“My dream in 5-10 years from now would be that the utility companies could perhaps get into the business,” he said, comparing the lease of solar systems to the old telephone rental agreement with Bell System.

“The phone was a minor cost. I can see a day where the utility company says we're going to sell you electricity but you will allow us to use your rooftop. You say, what's in it for me? We're going to install a battery in your house also so you'd be more immune to blackout, but we're going to use that battery to balance the distribution system so we don't have to overfill our lines anymore. So we'll have a more robust system more immune to blackout.

“What's in it for the utility company? There's a new growth model of an expanded business. We should start thinking of totally different models.”

He also said that utilities would need to get more involved in the monitoring of solar systems as PV penetration increased.

“When solar was one-tenth or 1% of local generation on a grid system, it was a little dimple, a little perturbation,” he said. “Now imagine if it's 10%, 20%, 30% which is going to be very real, what do you do? What the utility company would need is a monitoring of generation on the rooftops, equivalent to smart meters; they will need to know what's happening.”

As part of the SunShot Initiative, the DoE last week announced US$15 million in new funding to spur innovation in manufacturing processes for solar energy systems.

Chu also oversaw the DoE's loans guarantee programme, which enabled projects such as BrightSource's CSP plant to be built. The 392MW Ivanpah project in the Mojave desert was awarded US$1.6 billion, more than half the US$2.2 billion cost of the project. He also established the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), based on the US military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to develop cutting edge energy technology.

Chu leaves his post at the end of this month and will return to Stanford University. President Barack Obama has nominated MIT nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz to replace him. But some in the renewables industry have expressed concern that Moniz, who supports the development of natural gas, will not continue Chu's enthusiastic promotion of non-fossil fuel sources of energy.

19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.
20 October 2021
Utility-scale solar is evolving, shaped by higher power modules and demand for increasingly lower levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). Those trends are also changing project requirements elsewhere, with inverters capable of delivering high power density and power capacity in strong demand. In this webinar, FIMER will detail how its innovative high-power, multi-MPPT string inverter and modular conversion solution can both meet those demands and transform the utility-scale solar sector for the better.
20 October 2021
The race is on but we need to sprint… With global climate talks fast approaching and time running out to prevent the most disastrous impacts of climate change, now is the time to act. The Summit will explore the opportunities that emerge from taking action on climate change and provide a clear pathway forward for governments, citizens and companies. Taking place just 10 days before the G20 meeting in Rome, on 30-31 of October, and in the lead up to the critical COP26 meeting in Glasgow from 31 October–12 November, this event will be instrumental in influencing ambitious global action.
10 November 2021
The solar tracker market continues to mature at breakneck speed, with designs and component selections becoming ever-more complex in the pursuit of better project economics. But a more simplistic design could deliver a triple benefit of lower Capex, EPC and Opex costs. This webinar will set out the ideal single axis tracker design for utility-scale solar farms. The design leapfrogs from decades of experience, with a comprehensive understanding and attention to the three cost structures of Capex, EPC and Opx. Sun and Steel Solar has prototyped a single axis tracker designed to deliver up to US$0.03/W in real savings compared to existing single axis trackers on the market. That’s US$30 million for every gigawatt deployed.
15 November 2021
The 10th edition of the famous Metallization and Interconnection Workshop, MIW2021, will take place in the Thor Central venue in Genk, Belgium, on Monday, November 15, and Tuesday, November 16, 2021 as a face-to-face meeting. We are longing for direct exchange of knowledge and ideas after a long time. Hopefully you can be part of it! But of course, the organizors will keep an eye on the evolution of the Covid pandemic. It will be assess carefully, whether the workshop can be held without major risks or excessive restrictions. We are looking forward to exciting talks, discussions and meetings and to welcoming you in Genk!
23 November 2021
The solar, storage and EV industries in the UK are going from strength to strength. There is no better place for the community to meet, share ideas and do business than Solar & Storage Live from 23-25 November at the NEC.There’s something for everyone; more than 150 exhibitors, a high-level conference, a start up and innovation zone, a poster zone, strategic partners to network with and much more. 

Read Next

October 19, 2021
Funds managed by private equity firm Antin Infrastructure Partners have secured a deal to acquire a majority stake in US solar and storage developer Origis Energy.
October 19, 2021
Lightsource bp has announced its entry into Poland’s solar market through a co-development deal which will see the developer proceed with a 757MWp pipeline in the country.
October 19, 2021
Shortlisted bids in Saudi Arabia’s latest solar tender have jumped significantly on the lowest price recorded in the country’s previous renewables programme, reflecting the hikes in PV equipment costs in recent months.
October 19, 2021
The White House has said renewables are still key to its budget reconciliation bill despite rumours of the investment tax credit (ITC) being modified as opposition to the bill by senators Manchin and Sinema continue
October 19, 2021
Europe's energy crisis can be a boon for renewables deployment on the continent by bolstering business cases, but familiar foes such as grid constraints will still need to be hurdled in the coming years.
October 19, 2021
Solar tracker manufacturer Soltec has signed a framework agreement with renewables developer Acciona Energia to supply trackers over a three-year period.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
BRISTOL, UK
Upcoming Webinars
November 10, 2021
8am (PST) | 5pm (CET)
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021