Solar power costs to be competitive by 2015-study

LOS ANGELES, June 17 Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:14am BST

LOS ANGELES, June 17 (Reuters) - The costs of making electricity with solar power within a decade will reach parity with power made with fossil fuels like natural gas and coal, a study announced on Tuesday by supporters of renewable and solar energy says.

"As solar prices decline and the capital and fuel costs for coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants rise, the U.S. will reach a crossover point by around 2015," writers of the report, publisher Clean Edge and environmental nonprofit Co-op America, said in a press statement.

The statement says solar power can make 10 percent of U.S. power generation by 2025, or about 255,000 of installed solar generation.

Installed solar power -- both photovoltaic and concentrated solar power -- has jumped to 3,000 megawatts in 2008 from 600 MW in 2003, the study said. Even that higher number is less than a tenth of 1 percent of total U.S. power generation.

It will cost utilities between $450 billion and $560 billion by 2025 ($26 billion to $33 billion per year) in capital costs to reach the 2025 goal.

The study also says utilities must remake market and business models to allow solar to easily expand.

Among the study's findings is that the average cost for solar photovoltaic power will drop to 8 to 18 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2015 from today's 15 to 32 cents per KWh, and further to 4 to 8 cents per KWh by 2025.

The study was written after more than 30 interviews with solar, utility, financial and policy experts and a study of market data, Clean Edge said.

A different study by the U.S. Energy Department and wind power industry advocates issued in May said it is feasible to have 20 percent of U.S. power generation from wind power by 2030. U.S. installed wind generation is about 16,000 MW now. (Reporting by Bernard Woodall, editing by Mark Porter)