The future costs of low-carbon energy technologies: Case studies on the drivers, uncertainties and implications of solar PV and battery electricity storage

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Title: The future costs of low-carbon energy technologies: Case studies on the drivers, uncertainties and implications of solar PV and battery electricity storage
Authors: Gambhir, Ajay
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: The cost of addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions is heavily dependent on the future costs of low-carbon energy technologies. Yet many of these technologies are still relatively immature, with potentially significant room for further innovation and cost reduction. Estimating future technology costs is therefore critical yet challenging. This thesis investigates how different drivers of innovation and cost reduction, such as technological improvements, material inputs and manufacturing scale can be considered in tandem to better understand the future cost ranges of energy technologies. The thesis presents a first-of-a-kind assessment of organic solar photovoltaic modules using a bottom-up engineering model of material and manufacturing costs, with a stochastic analysis to understand the range of cost outcomes and the principal drivers of those outcomes. It also includes a first-of-a-kind expert elicitation of lithium ion battery packs for off-grid applications, further developing and enhancing existing best-practice expert elicitation protocols to account for different drivers of cost-reduction, including R&D, learning-by-doing and economies of scale. The thesis explores the implications of the future cost estimates of these technologies at two geographical scales: the first by considering the costs of off-grid solar and battery systems in rural communities currently reliant on diesel generators, using a bespoke model; the second by considering the potential impact of future solar photovoltaic and battery storage costs on global mitigation costs to meet a 2oC climate target, using an integrated assessment model. The thesis finds that disaggregation of technological innovation and cost reduction drivers provides important insights into how future cost reductions are likely to come about, including the role of specific policy support. In addition, the influence of solar photovoltaic and battery storage costs on mitigation costs is significant, since these technologies are making renewable-generated electricity at a variety of scales cost-competitive with fossil fuel electricity generation.
Content Version: Open Access
Issue Date: Sep-2017
Date Awarded: Jan-2018
Supervisor: Gross, Robert
Green, Richard
Department: Grantham Institute
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Centre for Environmental Policy PhD theses

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