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November 11, 2010

Boston Consulting Group examines seven alternative energy technologies

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released a report called What’s Next for Alternative Energy? BCG examines the state of seven of the most significant alternative-energy technologies—advanced biofuels, electric vehicles (EVs), concentrated solar power (CSP), solar photovoltaic (PV), onshore wind, offshore wind, and clean coal through carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Prospects were assessed in terms of three issues:

• 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?



Among the report’s key findings:

• 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 ten 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.

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