The Future May Be Closer Than You Think for Some Forms of Alternative Energy

Bookmark and Share
San Francisco — December 7, 2010 — The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

  • Can it achieve cost competitiveness with conventional energy by 2020 and be economically viable without subsidies?
  • Can it overcome barriers to rapid adoption once cost competitive?
  • Can it reach penetration levels by 2025 that disrupt the status quo?

  • Advanced biofuels, CSP and solar PV will see accelerating adoption and growth and are on track to change the global energy mix far earlier than is often assumed. Their costs are falling rapidly, and they are on the path to becoming cost competitive within the next five to 10 years, if not sooner.
  • Onshore wind power will see steady adoption and continued growth. It is already cost competitive with conventional energy sources in some instances, and its costs will continue to fall. Without breakthrough declines in energy storage costs, however, the inherent challenges posed by the intermittent nature of onshore wind and solar PV will limit their ultimate penetration.
  • EVs will also see steady adoption, becoming economically attractive for lead segments by 2020. But broader adoption will require significant declines in battery costs. Major infrastructure and other hurdles will also have to be overcome.
  • In contrast to onshore wind, offshore wind will struggle to move beyond purely subsidy-driven growth. Offshore wind's overall adoption will be slow except in a few countries willing to continue heavy subsidies.
  • Clean coal through CCS will have very slow adoption and won't be viable for the next decade or two. The technology is vital for cutting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. But it will develop slowly for a number of reasons, including slow progress toward demonstrating large-scale viability and moving down the cost curve.

Justin Rose

Petros Paranikas