Solar’s Brilliant Price Declines Hide Strains in Quality, Labour Standards
Plummeting prices for solar power around the world may conceal shortcomings ranging from poor materials to workplace exploitation, Greentech Media suggests, in a report comparing the technology’s cost in different countries.
The outlet celebrates the ongoing cost decline in utility-scale solar generation, noting “jaw-dropping lows” in India. Even lower prices of US$2.42 per kilowatt-hour have been achieved in the Persian Gulf. And GTM research analyst Ben Gallagher predicts a further 27% price drop—about 4.4% a year—by 2022.
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“Those improvements are not limited to the U.S.,” the outlet notes. “They are occurring globally, and in some cases resulting in even sharper price declines than those America is experiencing.” The precipitous price drop has been behind numerous assertions that the economics of renewable energy supply have reached a tipping point.
But not every slashed price is equally virtuous. “The competitive tender process has a harmful side effect,” Greentech observes. “There are widespread concerns about the viable lifetimes of many of the systems currently installed, as it is suspected that many were hastily constructed using poor-quality components.” In developing markets like India, meanwhile, “it turns out that a great way to reduce your soft costs is to pay your labour force and engineers next to nothing.”