New Study Says Solar Energy Is the Answer to Climate Change, but Requires Improvements in the R&D World

Solar energy may be the one and only answer to climate change.

According to a new study from MIT, “The Future of Solar Energy,” solar has the ability to reverse the effects of climate change by mid-century, but it comes with major obstacles.

“It is going to have to be solar,” explained MIT Economics and Management Professor Emeritus and study chair Richard Schmalensee. “That leads to the question of whether today’s technology, with incremental improvements, can do it. We have serious doubts.”

There will have to be powerful advances in solar technology before solar energy can become the leading universal electricity provider.

“It will take increasing solar by a factor of 65. Not doubling, but a factor of 65,” Schmalensee said, describing how solar could prevent the world from enduring the worst consequences of climate change. “And it has to be done globally, in China and India and sub-Saharan Africa. That means it has to be cheap.”

The researchers at MIT are saying that this change will be difficult, but not impossible. There are policy changes that need to happen immediately in order to get where we need to be.

Schmalensee emphasized that we need to “get R&D right,” because “it is not automatic that there will be new technologies.” There will be many hurdles that will require major R&D spending.

He also stressed the importance of fixing the subsidies “so we are getting more solar per dollar.”

The study states that, “policies that reward production are generally superior in terms of return per dollar spent to policies that subsidize investment in solar generation.”

The study’s suggestion on the issue: “Subsidies for solar and other renewable technologies should reward generation, not investment, and should reward generation more when it is more valuable…Tax credits should be replaced by direct grants, which are more transparent and more effective. If this is not possible, steps should be taken to avoid dependence on the tax equity market.”

Click here for the full study.


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