With roughly a decade left to avoid locking in dangerous climate change, swift action is required to identify where the greatest emissions are coming from and then rapidly decarbonize those sources. The most effective path to decarbonization is cutting fossil fuel consumption, but developing and urbanizing countries require new energy and efficiency technologies – making clean energy research and development (R&D) critical.
The good news is that advances in the last two decades have cut renewable energy costs, making new renewables cheaper than operating existing coal power in many parts of the world.
Consider solar photovoltaics, which date to the 1950s, but were too expensive to be used commercially for many years. In 1977, the price per watt of crystalline silicon solar cells was $76.67, but over time, R&D drove down prices, making more commercial applications for solar feasible. This accelerated deployment, starting a feedback loop that further reduced prices. Solar cell prices per watt reached $0.26 in 2016, a decline of 99.6% in 39 years. MORE