MIT Energy Initiative: solar best potential for meeting humanity's needs

In a report to be delivered to U.S. lawmakers, regulators and senior administration officials, MITEI has called for electricity systems to be prepared for “very large-scale deployment of solar generation.” The report puts solar at the top of the list in terms of energy technologies with the potential to serve humanity’s power needs in a low-emission manner.

“Our objective has been to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in U.S. government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support its massive deployment over the long term, which we view as necessary,” says MITEI Director Robert Armstrong, himself an MIT Professor.

The “Future of Solar Energy” study has made a number of recommendations to assist with realizing solar at the vast scale required.

It recommends that there needs to be a “shift” in focus towards new solar technologies and policies that can enhance the economics of solar PV in the market.

The MITEI report has also made the call for the technical and regulatory reform of electricity systems to facilitate “very large scale” solar deployment. These reforms are required because of solar’s variability of electricity supply, and will involve both market-based approaches and the application of battery storage technology.

In terms of public policy, the report calls for state-based Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to be brought under one national administration. As a part of this, interstate trading of RPS certificates should be allowed. This, presumably, would allow PV to be deployed where it is the best fit in terms of irradiance, grid connectivity and land availability, and certificates the solar arrays produce traded to less suitable parts of the U.S.

On the technology front, the report calls for an ”urgent need for an ambitious and innovative approach to technology development.” The focus of the research, the report’s authors argue, should be on: “new technologies and systems with the potential to deliver transformative system cost reductions.”

“The Future of Solar Energy” report was published yesterday. It was written by a multidisciplinary team and reviewed by an external advisory committee.