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Shocked! Shocked to hear the EIA underestimates renewables! October 22, 2017

Posted by Maury Markowitz in power grid.
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When I was still on the front lines of the PV market, we would look forward to receiving the latest US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) reports. Invariably they predicted a price for PV that was much higher than what we were shipping it out at retail, and every year we managed to ship a non-insignificant portion of what they said the entire US’s installations would be.

 

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Error? What error?

Everyone knew their predictions were way off, but as the official mouthpiece of the industry it was hard to argue that they weren’t the “official numbers”. Well no longer; the Natural Resources Defense Council had Statista review the EIA’s numbers, and it makes me laugh all over again.

 

Let’s just cut right to the chase here: according to the EIA’s 2006 predictions, the US would have a total of 0.8 GWp of PV installed by 2016.

Reality? In 2016 the US installed 14.6 GWp of new PV. That is, they installed over 18 times as much PV in that year alone than the EIA predicted would be installed in total by that point.

That’s the most painful example, but the same is true for every other source. Wind installations are underestimated by almost four times, and natural gas by 8 times.

Now the EIA is a government body, and their reporting process takes its time so they’re always basing their predictions on older data. But even then, there’s no excuse for this to continue now that the trend is clear. Yet it does continue.

In their 2015 version, they predicted that total PV capacity would double by 2026. But even as they were writing those words, there was already enough installations contracted that they would, and did, hit that number this year (2017). That report also calls for wind installs to increase to 6.5 GW a year between 2017 and 2030, but that number was already the average for 2004 to 2014, before they even started the report.

A number of industry observers have commented on why this keeps happening. The charitable suggest this is due to the rapidly falling costs of the new sources. I tend to blame the fact that it’s easier to get information from a dozen companies running reactors than the thousands running wind turbines or the millions running PV on their roofs.

But to paraphrase, you try to do a good job because it’s hard, and these reports really have no excuse.

Comments»

1. Paul F. Dietz (@PaulFDietz) - August 15, 2018

If you could predict the future, would YOU be working for the EIA?


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