By Karen Hao for Quartz Media

Though US president Donald Trump has promised many times that he will bring back coal, he really can’t do much to fight the forces of good old economics.

IMG_8992-768x576On Tuesday (Sept. 12), the US Department of Energy announced that utility-grade solar panels have hit 2020 cost targets three years early. Utility-scale solar now averages around $1 per watt (the cost of the hardware’s electricity generation capacity) and $0.06 per kilowatt-hour (the cost of the electricity consumed), targets set in 2001 by the DOE’s SunShot Initiative.

The steady decline in the price of solar power is largely due to falling costs of photovoltaic hardware, driven by market competition, as well as improvements in efficiency, in part stimulated by DOE-funded research, according to a report released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on the same day. “Soft” costs like labor have also fallen, but at a slower rate.

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