What will the energy industry look like in 2017? We’ve scanned heaps of energy headlines and sorted through all the news and views so you don’t have to!
Take a look at the five trending topics we’re watching:
Top 5 Energy Trends for 2017
1. Intelligent energy storage (smart batteries)
As battery prices continue to fall, we predict that the uptake of increasingly intelligent energy storage technology will continue to grow.
Tesla made headlines in October by launching Powerwall 2, quite possibly the cheapest lithium ion battery for the home ever made when deliveries start in January. Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects Powerwall 2 to drive prices down further still, as with the first iteration.
Storage innovation is not limited to residential energy consumers either. Utilities are using batteries to power the grid to avoid building inefficient, dirty and expensive on-demand power plants. Stem CEO John Carrington predicted that Storage-as-a-Service, another name for software-driven behind-the-meter (BTM) energy storage, will scale dramatically in 2017 and beyond. Our prediction is that customer-sited energy storage will take off this year, seeing significant adoption among utilities and large companies.
2. Renewables rule
Making an even bigger splash than Powerwall 2 was yet another innovation from Tesla: the solar roof. These textured glass quartz tiles look like ordinary shingles, but allow sunlight to pass through them onto a standard flat PV cell. Tesla’s grand plan is to bring together solar, storage and EVs together as a package deal that is easy to buy and mainstream.
2016 will be remembered as the year when solar became the cheapest energy source – beating out coal in many parts of the world and renewing hopes for a decarbonised future. According to Bloomberg, solar prices have dropped 62% since 2009 and the trend is expected to continue.
An additional driver pushing the renewables boom is the commitment of some of the world’s biggest corporations like General Motors, Walmart, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Apple and more to run their entire operations on 100% renewable energy. Even outgoing-President Barack Obama insisted in the journal Science that “the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.” We’re gonna take his word for it and give this trend a thumbs-up for hope.
3. Blockchain boom?
Thought blockchain was a banking only thing? Turns out it also has its stake in the energy world. A handful of startups and even a few utilities around the world are integrating blockchain and solar technology projects that range from developing alternative currencies for trading to administering transactions with smart contracts.
According to EnergyPost.eu, blockchain holds the promise of lower bills, community-based energy, resilience for the entire electricity system, and huge tech implications for incumbents and regulators. How? By “distributed ledger”, a transparent and cryptographically secure “log” that tracks where electricity was generated, where it can travel to and who used it. In this way, blockchain has the capacity to cut out the “middle men” – retailers and generators – thereby leading to re-organised, de-centralised and democratised grid.
It remains to be seen, however, whether blockchain can deliver real value to the energy world. We have yet to see scalable use cases beyond a few pilots, so for now we’re chalking this one up to hype.
4. Mainstreaming microgrids
This one follows from the previously mentioned energy trends. Blockchain architecture allows smaller participants (right down to individual households) to exchange energy on retail and wholesale markets via peer-to-peer rating and community-based energy systems, like microgrids.
Microgrids are independently operable parts of the energy distribution network, controlled within defined geographic boundaries. They can operate in 2 modes: as part of the the established grid or in isolation (as an island). Close proximity to generation and load. Projects are up in running all over the world, notably in Australia, the US (New York City) and Germany.
In the northeastern USA, state-managed funds have invested half a billion dollars in microgrid development to help combat extreme weather events and an aging grid. By 2020, GTM research expects microgrid capacity to more than double – to the tune of nearly 3 gigawatts. With a host of varied business use cases already up and running, especially in terms of cost benefits, it isn’t difficult to see why:
We predict this trend of expanding location-based models for energy production, transport and consumption will go global in 2017 as blockchain continues to carve its place in disrupting the energy network landscape.
5. Energy management goes mobile
Energy managers have a powerful technology in their hands – literally. Yep, we’re talking about smartphones. You already use it for everything, so why not energy management?
The same goes for utility customers, who will also want easier relationships with their providers. Utilities in turn want a fuller picture of their customers that only nuanced data can provide. That proactive, customer-centric communication will be enabled by enhanced digital relationships and mobile offerings focused on optimising energy use.
In 2017 our prediction is that both residential and C&I energy management will go increasingly mobile, meaning you won’t have to wait until your next power bill arrives to benefit from energy efficiency savings. Energy managers will be able to monitor the energy output of their solar PV systems, trace kWh savings of energy efficiency measures, and detect performance issues in real time thanks to self-diagnostics and alerts. This is especially useful for facility managers looking after multi-site portfolios.
All in all, looks like 2017 is shaping up to be a year for the history books!
One more thing – perhaps you’re wondering why this post is called 5+5?
To hear about the 5 remaining energy trends, check out our recorded webinar with our Director of Research & Development Miguel Cruz Zambrano on 2017 energy trends.