US Cleantech Surges Amidst Dramatic Cost Reductions

US president Barack Obama and his possible successor, Hillary Clinton. Photo: Evan El-Amin /
US president Barack Obama and his possible successor, Hillary Clinton. Photo: Evan El-Amin /

A new US government report has revealed that the cost of low-carbon technologies has plunged by as much as 94 percent since 2008.

Because of a strategic shift in government spending on innovation, solutions like wind turbines, solar technologies, electric vehicles and light-emitting diodes are increasingly deployed across America, the report says.

In 2015, wind power and solar technologies accounted for more than two-thirds of all new US electricity generation capacity installed, the reports shows. Meanwhile, installations of LED light bulbs have more than doubled from last year, and sales of electric cars are about to pass the half-million mark, according to the report.

The news comes as the frontrunner in the US presidential elections, Hillary Clinton, reiterated at a debate with her opponent Donald Trump last night (9 October) that she wants the United States to become the “clean energy superpower of the 21st century.”

One of her proposals is a $60 billion “Clean Energy Challenge” that would see the federal government partner with states, cities, and rural communities to cut carbon pollution.

Continued Investments

The report by the US Department of Energy says continued government investments in research and development of clean energy technologies have contributed to price reductions ranging from 40 per cent for wind power to as high as 94 per cent for LED light bulbs since president Obama assumed office in 2008.

“This report is further proof that our commitment to clean energy and American innovation can lead to steep cost reductions and sharp increases in the deployment of advanced technologies,” US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement.


Increased Adoption

The report also highlights how solar power saved the US 17 million tonnes of CO2 in 2014, also leading to reduced water consumption and decreased air pollution while resulting in nearly $700 million in environmental savings.

Because LEDs use 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, increased installation of the light bulbs could allow for up to $630 billion in energy savings across the US between now and 2035, according to Department of Energy calculations.

The report also discusses emerging technologies such as fuel cells, grid-connected batteries, energy management systems and 3D printing. These technologies are on the cusp of wider deployment in the coming years, the report concludes.

Image: US Department of Energy
Image: US Department of Energy

Global Competitiveness

“We need to continue pushing the innovation agenda that leads to these kinds of dramatic cost reductions for all low-carbon technologies and increases America’s competitiveness and independence in the global clean energy economy,” Moniz said.

In Europe, national governments are working together to compete with the United States and other global powers. The European Union’s multi-billion Horizon 2020 programme supports initiatives including Climate-KIC, a public-private climate innovation partnership active across Europe, to boost innovation and increase the continent’s competitiveness.

Earlier this year, the EU and US released a joint statement to call for more joint investments by both the public and private sector, saying that “urgent and effective action is needed to address the threat of climate change.”

Paris Agreement

Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience in Brussels, Belgium, that “the amount of jobs, the extraordinary new enterprises” that can be created because of the transition to a low-carbon economy “is staring us in the face.”

Kerry highlighted how the United States and the EU are among the leading advocates of “the most inclusive and ambitious global climate change agreement ever negotiated.” Following the ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change last week, Secretary Moniz said the historic accord will further accelerate the “multi-trillion dollar market.”

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