Renewable energy today is increasingly recognized as not just an alternative energy source to fossil fuels but as the preferred choice that is cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
From the advancement of clean technology to increasing government support and corporate adoption of clean energy such as wind power, the world is moving fast into an era where renewable energy is embraced and celebrated.
Top 8 Renewable Energy Technologies And Trends Leading Our Renewable Energy Outlook
The renewable energy trends are divided into three categories:
Enabling Trends – How the deployment of renewable energy is made affordable and the energy distribution more accessible to residential and commercial energy consumers.
Demand Trends – The consumption patterns and the motivations of cities, communities and corporations and how they are driving demand for clean energy sources.
Technology Application Trends: How the advancement of renewable energy technology is charting the use of electricity and in turn affecting how the generation and distribution of renewable energy might evolve to.
1. Achieving Price & Performance Parity
In the US alone, major renewable sources such as wind energy have reached grid parity – that means where a renewable energy source is able to generate power at a cost and performance level that is equal to or even less than electricity generated by fossil fuels.
As renewable energy generation technologies continue to evolve, such as more efficient wind turbines, experts predict that grid parity for a spectrum of renewable energies will be achieved by countries such as China, Australia and the USA by 2025.
In fact, onshore wind energy has overtaken fossil fuels as the lowest cost energy source for power generation at just US$30-60 per MWh vs natural gas’s US$42-78 per MWh or coal’s US$60-$143 per MWh.
This rapid reaching of price and performance parity will incentivize countries to shift towards utilizing green energy source for their electricity generation. With a lower need to import fossil fuels as well as a lesser carbon footprint (and by virtue, lesser carbon tax), these economic savings can then be passed down to consumers through lower electricity prices.
2. Advancements In Energy Storage
Energy storage has long been a factor that determined if alternative energy production could be a viable power source for both residential and commercial use.
Renewable energy by virtue of the way their power is generated faces the key issue of intermittency challenges on both the residential and grid-wide scale – making their reliability questionable during emergencies.
However, energy storage battery technologies are improving globally with Asia being on track to become the world leader in energy storage.
In addition, iconic companies like Tesla are creating commercially viable storage units for both residential and corporate needs. Take, for example, Tesla’s Powerwall (their home energy storage device), that boasts over 7 days of continuous power during an outage, its demand is currently outstripping supply.
Advancement into battery technology has also been paying dividends to companies that have embraced their deployment in large scale operations such as Tesla’s big battery at Hornsdale in South Australia. Owned and operated by Neoen Australia, the battery alone receives a $4m a year payment from the South Australian government for providing grid services.
With the increased use and adoption of commercial batteries, this means energy will be able to be effectively utilized with lesser incidents of intermittent outages – ensuring smooth electric supply to homes and commercial businesses, especially those far away from the electric grid.
3. Decentralization Of Energy Distribution (Through IOT & Blockchain)
Blockchain, a decentralization technology that records and conducts transactions through an encrypted peer-to-peer network is currently being adapted for use in the energy markets.
This decentralization aims to empower consumers to buy and sell electricity with other consumers – potentially eliminating away the middlemen such as suppliers.
With over US$1 Billion of venture capital raised to scale an eco-system of energy blockchain startups, the race to reduce energy inefficiency is taking off and could bring about tangible benefits for everyday consumers – such as lower residential electricity prices.
One effective way this can be done is through the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) which seeks to integrate all our appliances where devices, from our fridges to computers, will be able to buy and sell electricity autonomously helping to optimize their energy consumption.
In addition, the use of blockchain in the energy markets can help allow more financing opportunities for renewable energy projects. By broadening the pool of investors to smaller entities and even individuals, project developers would be able to crowdsource a fraction of a project’s financing, allowing them to secure the remainder of funds from venture capital investors or financial institutions.
2019 will see an increased activity into blockchain energy innovations that can help revolutionize the way people interact with electricity, allowing greater transparency, efficiency and swifter price discovery for the energy markets.
4. The Accelerated Rise Of Wind Power
While many renewable energy sources are becoming more efficient towards reaching grid parity, wind power is perhaps the fastest growing and most successful green energy source.
Although 2018 saw the global commissioning of onshore wind turbines decline by 3% due to a slowdown in Germany and India, an expected 32% jump in growth is imminent in 2019.
Take the USA for example, wind power is poised to surpass hydropower as the country’s largest source of renewable electricity in 2019. With a combination of new onshore and offshore wind capacity coming online in 2019, the installed capacity in the USA will reach 107 gigawatts by the end of the year.
This accelerated adoption of wind power is driven not only by stronger and smarter wind turbines (due to the integration with artificial intelligence), but also by the demand driven by corporations looking to buy clean power.
An additional renewable energy outlook, according to Bloomberg, is that corporations purchased more than 7 GW of renewable power in 2018 compared to 2017’s 5.4 GW and this is projected to grow even further in 2019.
5. The Rise Of Smart Renewable Cities
As renewable energy becomes cheaper, more accessible and storage being more feasible, smart renewable cities (SRCs) are rising up all over the world, making green energy a part of everyday urban life.
The goal of any city is that of economic growth, sustainability and maintaining a quality of life – and that requires stable and abundant energy within easy reach. Smart renewable cities are cities that include a green energy component such as wind energy in their power generation sources.
One such example is San Francisco. With an ambitious plan to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030, the city plans to accomplish this by transitioning all their private commercial buildings to 100% renewable electricity.
While San Diego tops the SRC charts with 33% of their electricity generated by renewable sources, smart renewable cities are global with India’s Jaipur boasting a 20% share of green electricity and South Korea’s Seoul with 6.6%.
As global cities begin their transition towards green power, their residents will enjoy a better quality of life with their city contributing less to the environmental impact without any interruption to the power supply.
6. Big Businesses Committing To Renewable Energy
A major renewable energy trend that will continue throughout 2019 and beyond is the commitment of big corporations towards adopting renewable energy sources to power their business operations.
Siemens, for example, outlined their plan to become fully carbon neutral by 2030 with an added benefit of cost savings up to $30 million annually by converting their entire worldwide fleet of nearly 100,000 vehicles into greener ones powered by electricity.
Walmart, the American supermarket giant is an active proponent of renewable energy with an ambitious goal of being supplied by 100% renewable energy from just 24% today. With an enormous physical presence spanning across the United States, the world’s biggest physical retailers boast 145 MW of installed capacity of green energy throughout their stores and facilities.
Tech firms including Facebook are also pledging their commitment to reaching 100% renewable energy by 2020 with currently over 3,000 MW of green energy supporting their offices globally.
A corporate giant that has achieved 100% renewable energy status is Google. They have accomplished this through their wholesale power purchase agreements from renewable energy developers on the same grids where they operate their data centers.
With big global businesses leading the push for renewable consumption, their contributions will trickle down to the national level allowing countries to tap on their expertise and resources, providing renewable energy developers the stability to finance and build new energy technology projects.
Technological Application Trends
7. Increasing Adoption Of Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles (EVs) globally are becoming increasingly more mainstream with an 81% increase in electric vehicle sales in the USA alone, heralding a possible hockey-stick growth for their future demand.
One driving force that is pushing the increased demand for EVs is the steady drop of the batteries cost which makes up almost half of the price of an EV. Since 2010, lithium battery costs have decreased by around 80% and will fall by another 41% by 2021.
Perhaps the biggest adoption factor lies with China whose new EV policy which has been active since 2019. The policy will require automakers to comply with a mandatory EV credit target that is spurring the development and manufacturing of EVs to fill this regulatory need.
The result? China now possesses a larger EV market than Europe and the United States combined and is aiming to have a 50% global market share of EVs by 2025.
8. Artificial Intelligence & Electricity
Using artificial intelligence (AI), electricity markets can be made more efficient and provide energy independence, especially when integrated into the energy grid.
With AI’s machine learning capabilities, renewable energy sources such as wind farms can optimize their operations, making them more efficient in how they take in financial resources and generate electricity.
Take Google’s use of AI in renewable energy technologies for example, they are developing a neural network to accurately predict wind power output 36 hours ahead of the power being generated.
This means Google would be able to schedule the deliveries of energy output, making their wind farms reliable enough to deliver a set amount of electricity at a particular time, allowing wind power to be more predictable and valuable for their operational energy needs.
As AI becomes more integrated with the operations and output of electricity generation, this will help more renewable energy sources such as hydropower and geothermal power reach price parity faster.
The Future For Renewable Energy Is Bright And Everyone Has A Part To Play
While demand and technological innovation are key drivers of renewable energy trends, electricity retailers on the supply side also have a part to play to positively influence the transition towards green energy technologies.
At no additional charge, we help our customers do their part for the environment by offsetting their carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits on their behalf.
This is done by helping our customers estimate the carbon emission impact that they will be responsible for and then obtaining carbon credits that are generated and issued by United Nation certified projects equivalent to their energy use.
To date, we have helped over 50,000 residential customers in Singapore save 35,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of emissions which is equal to 175,000 planted trees. Helping companies break new ground with their green initiatives, we helped make the first hotel (Hotel Vagabond) and school (Dulwich College) in Singapore 100% carbon neutral in their electricity consumption.
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