The renewable energy industry is a fast-paced environment to be in. The technology is developing rapidly. Costs are coming down, and new approaches to funding energy projects are coming to the forefront.
According to an International Energy Agency (IEA) electricity forecast, by 2022 renewable electricity capacity will increase by 43% and expand by over 920 GW.
And that’s not all. Fresh, ambitious startups are popping up almost on a daily basis, and many of them are going to be major disruptors to the energy sector as we know it.
In this article, we’ve gathered everything you need to be in the know of trends, news, scandals and innovations that will shape the renewable energy sector in 2018.
From this long read you'll learn about:
- 5 Solar Energy Trends to Watch in 2018;
- 5 Countries to Watch in Renewables in 2018;
- 5 Sustainable Energy Startups to Watch Out for in 2018;
- 5 Trending Renewable Energy Events to Attend in 2018;
- 5 Energy Scandals Everyone’s Still Talking About in 2018;
- 5 Tips for Solar PV to Follow in 2018.
5 Solar Energy Trends to Watch in 2018
2017 has been a record year for the renewable energy sector globally. The pace of renewable energy project implementation has increased rapidly, with over 165 GW of solar energy capacity reported in 2017.
The solar industry forecasts that 2018 will be another bumper year with further policy shifts and support from governments globally.
Here are a few renewable energy trends to watch out for in 2018.
1. Renewable Energy Costs Will Decline Further
Since 2009, solar PV prices have dropped around 62%, and it looks like the run is set to continue in 2018.
Competition is increasing in the renewable energy space with such developing countries as China and India becoming more mainstream in rolling out renewable energy projects at a national level.
Offshore wind farm costs have also halved in recent years. What we are starting to see is an industry that’s maturing, with costs lowering enough that we are now starting to see subsidy-free solar PV and wind farms.
2. Global Solar Energy Capacity Will Increase
Solar PV is still the most popular clean source of energy out of the renewable energy family of technologies due to its maturity, ease of implementation, and low cost.
Global solar energy capacity is expected to increase by a further 107 GW in 2018, with China taking a massive 47-65GW chunk out of the global capacity for 2018.
3. Corporations Will Increase Support for Renewables
Solar for business is increasing in popularity.
Corporations are making ambitious targets when it comes to renewables and this is set to increase in 2018.
US corporates are the leaders in this space, with Apple’s new campus in California running off 100% clean energy.
Apple and some major US banks are members of the RE100 club. The RE100 club includes powerful corporations that have committed to 100% clean energy to power their business operations.
The drive for renewables in the corporate sector has been partly driven by the fall in renewable energy costs. Another reason: the benefits of securing energy supply and the opportunities that come with distributed energy generation.
4. Renewables Will Generate More Jobs
The International Renewable Energy Agency has reported that the renewable energy sector employs 9.8 million people globally.
Renewable energy is more labour-intensive than fossil fuels due to the very nature and size of renewable energy plants.
For example, wind turbine service technicians and solar PV installers are in actual fact the fastest growing occupation in the US. And the massive amount of investment going into the UK’s offshore wind farm sector is also creating a demand for skilled workers in this space.
The demand for skilled renewable energy professionals is in short supply and could impact our transition to implementing clean energy.
5. Energy Storage Competition Will Increase
There’s a lot of investment going into the development of energy storage technology.
Countries such as the UK, China, Poland, Hungary, Sweden and Germany are all planning on being market leaders when it comes to energy storage technologies.
In 2018, Tesla is expected to complete it’s Nevada lithium-Ion battery factory set to be the largest in the world, known as the Gigafactory.
China too is planning on supplying the global economy with 120 GWhs of battery cells by 2021.
The UK government recently announced a fund to support the development of energy storage technology.
It’s important to consider that energy storage doesn’t only include lithium-Ion batteries but also other emerging technologies, such as solid-state batteries, water-based batteries and Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology.
5 Countries to Watch in Renewables in 2018
The race to the top is on: who will ditch dirty fossil fuels in its entirety first and achieve a 100% clean energy supply?
The energy transition to renewables is no easy feat with humanity’s addiction to fossil fuels, and time isn’t on our side on this one.
With the Paris climate agreement capping the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius to pre-industrial levels, many countries are making bold commitments and providing incentives and regulatory support for renewables.
These five countries are the ones to look out for in 2018:
A recent poll has shown that majority of Australians support the energy transition to renewables.
Interestingly enough, the uptake of renewable energy in Australia has much to do with the rising cost of gas, electricity and the energy crisis.
The much-publicised installation of Elon Musk’s 100 MW battery in South Australia has generated interest in overseas investors in renewable energy, and particularly solar solutions.
The Australian Climate Council is expecting a boom in renewable energy investment in the coming decade in Australia.
Australian States are taking the initiative to introduce policies that support investment into renewables such as solar thermal, energy storage, and solar PV and as such expect private investors to follow.
China again makes the list for renewable energy trends in 2018.
Although this Asian country is the world’s biggest polluter, according to The Guardian, it is also the global leader in solar generation.
According to the Paris climate agreement, China has agreed to cap its level of carbon emissions by 2030 but is aiming to reach this target earlier.
China is also the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. They are promoting investment into renewables and phasing out of coal-fired power stations.
Expect to see more policy shifts and investment into Chinese renewables in 2018.
In 2015, Sweden committed to the phasing out of fossil fuels and a switch to 100% renewable energy.
They have ramped up investment into clean energy technologies such as renewables and SMART Grids.
A SMART Grid uses a bi-directional flow of data through digital technology to detect changes in the electrical grid and adapt to this changes, of which the end result is a more efficient utility grid.
In terms of renewable incentives, they work on a green certificate system. It’s based on free market principles, where producers of clean energy are issued green certificates for producing electricity from renewables.
These certificates are issued by the government, and clean energy producers can then sell these on the open market.
Since 2012, Norway and Sweden have been operating in a common market for the trading of electricity generated.
Both countries have recently agreed to expand that to a shared green certificate system starting in 2018!
The EU has always been at the forefront of climate change and has requested that all EU countries publish their strategies for eradicating coal-fired power stations.
The UK was one of the first EU countries to release their coal exit strategy at the beginning of 2018.
Part of the UK’s coal exit strategy is to limit the amount of carbon dioxide per kWh of electricity produced. Set at a very low level, this will make it impossible for coal-fired power stations to operate unless it uses carbon capture and storage technology.
India is the 4th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, according to the UN, and represents 6.81% of total global CO2 emissions.
As a signatory to the Paris climate agreement, they have agreed to the phasing out of fossil fuels.
The Renewable Energy Attractiveness Index 2017 has ranked India as the 2nd most attractive renewable energy market in the world.
India reported a total capacity of 11 GW combined wind and solar power for the year 2016-2017. The Indian government has committed to growing their solar PV capacity to 100 GW by 2022.
In what appears to be an oxymoron, the Indian Government is pushing coal miners and producers of power to invest in renewable energy.
Expect to see major growth in India in the renewable energy sector in 2018!
5 Sustainable Energy Startups to Watch Out for in 2018
Sustainable energy startups are the real driving force in the marketplace when it comes to sustainable energy solutions, with many of them expected to disrupt the utility market as we know it.
We live in exciting times for clean energy—the industry is heading for a major shake-up in the near future.
Here we look at the movers and the shakers in the energy startup category.
Power Ledger and We Power
Blockchain technology appears to be a catchword of late.
Blockchain technology was designed for cryptocurrencies, but this technology is also expected to be a major disruptor in the trading of clean energy in the future.
Power Ledger, an Australian startup, has promised to disrupt the centralised utility grid business model.
Since Solar PV has become more mainstream, it has introduced complexities to the way utilities operate. Feed-in tariffs are always lower than the retail cost of electricity, meaning the generator of the electricity (the prosumer) isn’t getting a good deal.
Power Ledger has developed a platform using hardware, blockchain technology, and a mobile app that allows prosumers to trade clean energy generated with the neighbours as consumers of electricity.
This approach allows for a much fairer deal for both the prosumer who generates the electricity and the consumer of the clean energy.
We Power, a Lithuanian startup, use blockchain technology to create clean energy tokens that represent clean renewable power produced.
These energy tokens can be sold on the marketplace to consumers or investors. Using blockchain technology, it’s expected to remove many obstacles and additional hidden costs in the investment and selling of green energy.
Greensync is an energy tech company and another Australian startup.
They focus on developing technology that will support the move to the SMART Grid, enhancing efficiency and absorbing more renewable energy.
They are also involved in the development and roll out of the world's first virtual power station in Australia.
Rather than a centralised power station, a virtual power station is a network of solar PV systems connected to feed excess energy into the grid that is used elsewhere, virtually connecting and trading excess clean energy generated by the thousands of rooftop PV systems installed across Australia on a centralised software trading platform.
Dajie is a startup based in Italy.
Dajie is an acronym for Distributed Autonomous Join Internet & Energy for Everyone.
Currently, with the explosion of rooftop PV systems, prosumers generate and consume their own clean energy.
Excess energy is then fed back into the grid and prosumers rewarded through net-metering or feed-in tariffs. Both are expected to fall away at some point.
Dajie is developing technology using IoT and blockchain technology that will allow the prosumer to sell excess clean energy to their neighbours at a market-related cost, which is better than feed-in tariffs.
Oxford PV is a UK startup focusing on the development of solar PV technology.
They develop and commercialise thin-film perovskite solar cells.
Thin-film perovskite solar cells, when originally developed, had low efficiencies.
A perovskite solar cell is a structured compound, a hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material. The purpose is to act as the light harvesting or collection of sunlight into the solar panel—3.8%, to be exact, but since then Oxford PV has improved the technology with efficiency gains of 20%.
The benefits of perovskite solar cells are lower manufacturing costs and simplified manufacturing processes.
Buffalo Grid, another UK startup, aims to bridge the digital and power divide in developing countries where access to electricity is not always available.
More people on the plant have smartphones than access to electricity.
Buffalo Grid has developed a unique solar solution, a hub that consists of a power pack connected to a solar panel.
This, in turn, is used in rural communities to provide charging facilities for people to charge their smartphones.
Their mission is to connect the next billion users to the internet!
5 Trending Renewable Energy Events to Attend in 2018
Renewable energy conferences are always an ideal place to meet like-minded people in the industry, network with peers, and get a view of the latest trends and technologies along with an understanding of where government policy is going.
Here we list the top five renewable energy conferences in Australia in 2018.
Smart Energy Conference & Exhibition 2018
The Smart Energy Conference & Exhibition is scheduled for the 10-11 April 2018 in Sydney.
It’s Australia's go-to event for solar, energy storage and energy management.
The conference will include a multitude of talks concerning the solar and energy storage industry in Australia.
The exhibit will feature major players in the energy management, renewable energy and energy storage space.
The International Conference on Renewable Energy & Conservation 2018 (ICREC 2018)
The ICREC 2018 brings together top researchers from around the world, including North America, Europe and Asia Pacific countries to exchange their research results and address open issues in sustainable energy engineering.
It’s also one of the world’s leading conferences for presenting major advances in sustainable energy. The conference is scheduled to happen on the 15-17 June in Sydney.
Australian Clean Energy Summit 2018
The Australian Clean Energy Summit, hosted by the Clean Energy Council, takes place over two days from the 31 July to the 1 August 2018 in Sydney. The summit brings together industry leaders in Australia’s clean energy transition.
The summit includes heads of government, clean energy experts, industry leaders and renewable energy financiers.
They use this platform to discuss trends and technology innovations that they’re leveraging to drive renewable energy adoption and overcome barriers in its deployment.
All-Energy Australia Conference 2018
The All-Energy Australia Conference labelled as Australia’s most comprehensive clean and renewable energy event.
The conference is happening on the 3rd and 4th October 2018 in Melbourne. The conference will feature over 170 industry speakers from different clean energy sectors covering 6 different conference streams.
There will also be a renewable energy exhibit for companies in the renewable sector covering smart cities, energy storage and utilities operating in renewables.
Australia Solar & Energy Storage Congress & Expo
The Australia Solar & Energy Storage Congress & Expo takes place in Brisbane over two days, from the 5th to the 6th December 2018.
It's the largest congress focusing on the solar and energy storage market in Australia.
The congress brings together industry experts, industry leaders, governments, consulting and manufacturing companies.
With the common goal to discuss applications, opportunities, and challenges for solar and energy storage development in the Australian market.
5 Energy Scandals Everyone’s Still Talking About in 2018
Everyone loves a good scandal to sink their teeth into.
It makes good conversation around the barbeque or small talk at a cocktail party.
Although scandals are not that common in the clean energy space, there are a few worth revisiting.
Renewable Heat Incentive
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), better known as the “Cash for Ash” scandal, was developed by Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
The idea behind the incentive was to offer businesses to switch from using fossil fuels for heating to renewable heating systems.
However, the scheme backfired by offering subsidies greater than the cost of fuel.
The scheme was obviously abused by businesses and the scheme ended up costing taxpayers more than was originally budgeted.
A government whistleblower eventually blew the lid on the scheme.
UK Wind Farms Paid £100 Million to Switch Power Off
A major challenge in supplying energy to the grid is to match the supply and demand of energy. It’s always a balancing act.
Baseload power stations can generally throttle their energy output. However, things get a bit more complicated with renewable energy.
A UK think tank uncovered a scandal whereby the UK’s National Grid paid UK Wind Farm operators £100 Million to NOT produce electricity.
Wind Farms on average were paid out 40% more cash when they were switched off than when they were producing electricity!
Wind turbines, unfortunately, have to be shut down when the electricity supply exceeds demand.
Solar Panel Giant Accused of Manipulating Sales Data before IPO
A major solar PV firm was accused of manipulating sales data before going public in 2015.
Whistleblowers claimed Sunrun superiors asked senior managers to distort their sales figures before an initial public offering.
Senior managers were told to not release hundreds of cancelled sales contracts over a five-month period leading up to the IPO.
Solar companies normally give their homeowners a cooling off period before deciding to install a solar PV system.
By not reporting the cancellations, the effect distorts the companies sales figures.
However, Sunrun’s CEO stated that after an internal investigation the results showed there was “no evidence that our sales employees changed cancellation dates in our systems to delay the reporting of cancellations.”
Germany’s Carbon Emissions Rising Despite Massive Investment in Renewable Energy
The EU has set itself ambitious carbon emissions reduction targets, with Germany supposedly leading the pack with renewable energy investments.
One would think all this investment into renewables would reduce the country’s carbon emissions.
Not so: Germany’s CO2 emissions have actually been increasing since 2015. This is despite the fact that 50% of the country’s total installed power generation capacity comes from renewables.
Unfortunately, coal usage has increased to about 30% as well as power purchases from neighbouring countries.
This is because baseload power is needed due to the variability of renewables. Over half of Germany’s coal-fired power stations use Lignite coal, the dirtiest of all coal.
Worst of all, the situation is expected to get worse as they phase out their Nuclear Power stations.
Corruption Stalls South Africa’s Renewable Energy Program
South Africa’s Independent Power Producer program, introduced in 2011, has largely been seen as a successful procurement model globally.
In recent years, though, the program has stalled due to government corruption allegations. The state-owned utility Eskom slammed the brakes on signing up any further renewable energy Independent Power Producers due to concerns about the “financial stability” of the program.
The South African Renewable Energy Council (SAREC) has been fighting back though, claiming corruption at the highest level of government favouring nuclear over renewables and deliberately delaying the rollout of renewables.
5 Tips for Solar PV to Follow in 2018
Investing in a Solar PV system for your home is a large investment, and as such you want to ensure you get the best possible return on your investment. The tips below will assist in optimising your investment return.
Solar PV Panel Efficiency
Commercially available PV panels have an efficiency ratio of between 10 and 22%. Normally, the higher the efficiency the more expensive the PV panel.
When selecting a panel based on efficiency, it’s not always ideal to opt for the most efficient panel as it may not always offer the best return.
If you have a small roof and stay in a climate with a low amount of sun hours per annum, then consider a high-efficiency panel.
However, if you have a large roof with, on average, a high amount of sun hours per annum, then consider a cheaper, lower-efficiency panel.
Use Your Appliances During the Day
It goes without saying that maximising your self-consumption will increase your investment return.
On average, a house consumes 2 kWh of electricity between breakfast and dinner, while typical daily consumption is 18 kWh per a day.
Wherever possible, run your appliances during the day. As an example, set your dishwasher and washing machine to run during the day.
Your hot water tank also acts as an energy storage device—set your hot water tank to heat up the water during the day.
Swap your Standard Globes for LEDs
The older type of light bulbs is extremely inefficient. They only use 10% of the energy for lighting, and the rest goes to waste.
Instead, consider installing LED globes—they use up to a tenth of the same amount of energy to produce the same amount of lighting.
The cost of LED globes has also come down in recent years. Using less solar power for your lighting means the more solar power to be used elsewhere.
Invest in a Solar Monitor
As they say, “Data is King,” and the same applies to how you manage your Solar PV system.
Having a live solar monitor will give you access to valuable data. It will tell you how much clean power is being generated and where it’s going, i.e. self-consumption or being fed into the grid. Using this valuable data gives you the power to manage where your clean energy goes to, pardon the pun!
Energy Storage Increases Efficiency
The cost of lithium-ion batteries is coming down each year. Using only a grid-tied system, you use between 50 and 80% of the power generated for your own consumption.
The rest is fed back into the grid. Take into account that your feed-in tariff is less than the utility power tariff rate for energy used from the grid.
Having an energy storage system in place can quite easily bump up your self-consumption to 100%, thereby improving your Solar PV system’s efficiency.
The main trends of the year are very promising and optimistic: renewable energy costs will decline further with energy storage competition on the rise, which will lead to an increase in global solar energy capacity, the growth of solar for business and corporations, and the generation of more jobs in renewables.
Australia, China, Sweden, the UK and India are expected to be main newsmakers this year. Keep an eye on new promising companies and startups from around the world!
This year’s best energy events for networking: Smart Energy Conference & Exhibition 2018, ICREC 2018, Australian Clean Energy Summit 2018, All-Energy Australia Conference 2018, Australia Solar & Energy Storage Congress & Expo.
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