Interim monitoring of cost dynamics for publicly supported energy technologies
The combination of substantial public funding of nascent energy technologies and recent increases in the costs of those that have been most heavily supported has raised questions about whether policy makers should sustain, alter, enhance, or terminate such programs. This paper uses experience curves for photovoltaics (PV) and wind to (1) estimate ranges of costs for these public programs and (2) introduce new ways of evaluating recent cost dynamics. For both technology cases, the estimated costs of the subsidies required to reach targets are sensitive to the choice of time period on which cost projections are based. The variation in the discounted social cost of subsidies exceeds an order of magnitude. Vigilance is required to avoid the very expensive outcomes contained within these distributions of social costs. Two measures of the significance of recent deviations are introduced. Both indicate that wind costs are within the expected range of prior forecasts but that PV costs are not. The magnitude of the public funds involved in these programs heightens the need for better analytical tools with which to monitor and evaluate cost dynamics.
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