Natural Gas Exports Will Boost Solar Industry, Exec Says

From FuelFix

By Carolyn Lochhead

With a huge fight heating up over whether to allow exports of U.S. natural gas, California solar executive Arno Harris argued that allowing exports would help the solar industry and reduce global carbon emissions.

The U.S. shale boom has up-ended global energy markets, lowering energy costs in the U.S. and promising to make the U.S. a net energy exporter, instead of a dependent on Middle East oil.

Cheap natural gas “is wiping coal off the map,” said Harris, CEO of San Francisco-based Recurrent Energy, which builds large-scale solar plants that sell electricity to utilities.

That’s a big plus for climate change, because natural gas has about half the carbon emissions of coal. But cheap natural gas also threatens to undercut green energy.

But Harris argued in an interview that solar costs are plummeting too, and that the industry can remain competitive.

“Everybody knows we’re in this cheap gas environment,” Harris said. “Gas-fired electricity today is probably 5 cents or 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, wholesale.” But new solar plants that Recurrent Energy is building will sell power to utilities as low as 7 cents a kilowatt-hour, he said.

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