Ken Zweibel gave a presentation on the cost-competitiveness of solar PV at the MIT-hosted Technology Review EmTech conference in Boston, September 24, 2009. He spoke on a panel entitled “The Energy Agenda” designed to respond to issues of climate change and the discussion of cap and trade in the US Congress. Zweibel challenged a number of long-held beliefs among the other panelists that solar was not ready for major deployment; that meeting climate change without carbon capture would be too expensive; that carbon dioxide reductions would be technically and economically challenging; that the US has a reasonably balanced R&D approach to solar PV; and that cap and trade is the most important step forward. Instead, Zweibel indicated that solar would likely be able to soon provide the US with as much electricity as we want in the 10 c/kWh range (and this is also true of wind); that in the long term (using a metric that measures cost over the life of a power plant) solar, wind, and nuclear are already less expensive than any form of fossil fuel power production, and especially one with the added expense of carbon capture; that since solar and wind, especially combined with electric transport, can meet all our needs without any carbon dioxide, there are few technical or economic challenges to meeting climate change goals; that our current portfolio of solar PV R&D overemphasizes long-term, high-risk research and nearly ignores the most likely route to success, and is thus totally sub-optimized for practical progress; and that direct incentives of solar, wind, and electric transport pay far higher dividends than a cap and trade approach.

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