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Why do Reputed Consultants like BCG remain Blind and Ignorant to Solar PV Advances and Competitiveness

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Solar PV Technology have made a huge advance in the last 2-3 years leading to a demand explosion with more than 100% growth forecast this year.Crystalline PV Technology as well as Thin Film Technology like CIGs and CdTe have reduced their costs drastically.While Solar PV still requires generous government subsidies for their growth,grid parity has come very close.Solar PV Technology has become economically competitive in parts of Italy where a  unique combination of high electricity rates and sunshine have made Solar PV Technology very attractive.Costs are being reduced at more than 10% per year which would make Solar PV competitive in 2-3 years in most parts of the world.However mainstream and reputed forecasters and companies like Boston Consulting Group remain blind and ignorant to this.BCG in a recent report has said that biofuels and Concentrated Solar Thermal (CSP) Technology will become competitive.I have issues with both of these technologies.

BioFuels and CSP Technologies have huge problems

While Biofuels made from Crops like Corn cause huge problems from food security and inflation,CSP has big issues  on its own.Algae based Biofuel Technologies are  immature and would take another decade to provide a meaningful difference.Concentrated Solar Thermal Technology to be fair has its share of prominent backers in the form of the Desertec Foundation.California too has given huge subsidies to the massive solar thermal projects which again like the Desterec project is a colossal waste.Solar PV Technology on the other hand is not mentioned at least in the Reuters article making me question the value of this report.Solar PV is now competitive with Solar Thermal Technology and should attain costs of 10c/watt in 2-3 years compared to the 2020 which BCG thinks will happen for CSP.I am not alone in questioning the viability of CSP Technology given the rapid advance of Solar PV Technology.Best of Breed Chinese companies can manufacture Solar Panels at 80c/watt which makes Solar PV competitive in most parts of the world.While Energy Storage remains a  problem,note Germany and Spain already have 10-20% penetration of Solar PV without and grid problems.So USA could easily install 100 GW of Solar without any major issues.Comparable capex costs for Solar Thermal are also double that of Solar PV these days.However mainstream media and reputed consultants remain totally blind to this fact.With these reports being used in policy making,no wonder we see totally crazy energy policies everywhere.With the massive fossil fuel lobby already making climate change seem evil,what you don’t need is consultants giving out misguided reports as well.

Concentrated solar, biofuels competitive soon: BCG – Reuters

Solar energy and biofuels are on track to become economically competitive against conventional power sources within a few years to a decade, the Boston Consulting Group said on Wednesday.

Wind power and electric cars face hurdles to massive adoption, though, analysts at the consulting firm said in a report.

Alternative energy has appeared to be on the cusp of adoption for decades in one form or another — Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House roof while U.S. president in the 1970s — and report authors joked that alternative energy was always “a decade away”.

But it is likely to be part of the mainstream mix sooner than many expected, they argued. “There may be a silent revolution under way,” Balu Balagopal, a senior partner, said in an interview ahead of the report’s release.

Concentrated solar, which uses the sun’s heat to run a boiler to produce power, had a particularly strong outlook because plants can be built to hold heat for hours, allowing them to overcome problems from cloudy days — or even nightfall, the report said.

Biofuels made from non-food sources such as switchgrass could be competitive with $3/gallon gasoline by 2012 to 2015, as costs of enzymes and feedstock fuels fall and the benefits of large-scale production kick in.

The projections were based on a combination of forecasts for materials, extrapolation of previous technological progress, and analysis of potential barriers toward rolling out new technologies on a large scale.

Thus while the cost of photovoltaic solar panels is expected to fall precipitously, without some form of energy storage they and land-based wind farms face challenges compared with other technologies, the group said.

More time also will be needed for costly offshore wind power as well as carbon capture and sequestration, the process of separating greenhouse gases from power plant exhaust and keeping them safe and separate, they predicted.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

5 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. George

    Good question, but I’m not convinced of your answer. In high latitudes, solar is intrinsically less efficient per acre of land, especially in winter when it’s cloudy during blizzards and you need the power the most. Deserts have good sun all the time but the cost of building transmission lines from remote facilities is usually not factored into the per kWh cost.

    Storage for solar and wind energy is a BIG problem and is also not usually factored into the per kWh cost. The BCG looked at storage in a report from March 2010 which observed that CSP has significant intrinsic storage capacity while PV does not. However in this otherwise excellent report they ignored thermal storage such as tanks of potassium salts for reasons that I can’t fathom.

  2. Abhishek Shah

    PV Solar is the fastest declining form of energy and has reached grid parity in places like Italy,Hawaii.Expect large parts of the world to reach grid parity in the next 2 years.While I agree there are some places which may not make sense from the solar PV point of view,we are talking about a general place.Solar has been found to work quite well in Germany where the solar resource is not very high.Also most of the world population lives in low latitudes.

    Storage is a not a problem if you connect Solar PV to the existing grid.A recent study in the US has found that wind and solar can be used for 40% of the electricity generation without major investments.Germany already has 17 GW installed without much storage at present.I don’t think storage presents a problem in the near future.Solar Thermal Technology is losing out to Solar PV already because of the fast declining costs of silicon and improvements.As is the case with most consultant studies,they think too much in linear fashion and don’t consider enough factors.

  3. Richard McIver

    Storeage is not the problem as once thought. One is that the grid is the giant battery that consumes the power when available (solar) and low demand at night
    when no solar available is the major way. Fuel cell
    at night also do great so PV and Fuel Cells together
    do it.
    Solar Moore’s Law (I coined) is every 5 years solar comes down in price by 50%. Moore’s Law for computers and microchips it is 1.5 years (just look at the cell phones).
    EU spent $2.15 trillion to go renewable and phase out the nuclear options after the Japan crises. EU is now
    at 70% wind/solar electrical generation.

  4. Richard McIver

    PV can provide 3 resources and if done well make the
    difference. Electricity, hot water, and shade. The later not mentioned much if at all but in hot deserts like LA
    on a hot day the PV on the parking lots (LA Veterans Hospital West LA, Calif Institute of Technology, schools, and City of Burbank). I am hoping there can
    be a calculation of the three in numbers. Can this
    be done?