Energy Efficiency and Technology Predictions for 2021
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- Dec 30, 2020 4:45 pm GMTDec 30, 2020 4:31 pm GMT
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2021-01 - State of the Industry, click here for more
Distributed energy systems and renewables will continue to surge
2020 has been a difficult year for power companies. The pandemic has shaken up a lot of systems, and the economic and ecological problems the world faces continue to be a serious threat to stability. However there is a positive aspect to this: the continued expansion of renewable, green energy such as solar photovoltaic, wind, and hydropower, among others. Energy storage has also moved forward significantly in the marketplace.
The International Energy Agency’s recently-published Renewables 2020 report notes that COVID-19 has not slowed the growth of renewable energy. To project this forward to 2025, renewables will continue to be the swiftest-growing energy source.
A new trend towards joint ventures to increase energy-efficiency between power companies and other corporations will bear fruit. For example, McDonald’s and Apex Clean Energy have announced power purchase agreements (PPAs) for two large wind farms and a major portfolio of solar projects across three U.S. states. The projects aim to reduce McDonalds’ absolute emissions from its restaurants and offices by 36 per cent by 2030, against a 2015 baseline. As well as the ecological benefits these projects will create, they will also supply 3,400 short-term jobs and 135 long-term roles.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) and Tesla have started work on a 182.5-MW lithium-ion battery energy storage system in California. This Tesla Megapack project will reduce reliance on fossil fuels, while also boosting grid efficiency and reliability Consumers will benefit from reduced costs.
Behind-the-Meter Generation Disrupts the Utilities Sector
There has been a proliferation of distributed energy resources (DERs). Industrial plants, retail giants and ordinary households are increasingly installing devices like solar panels and geothermal systems to supplement their primary energy supply. This of course takes market segments away from traditional energy companies. They will have to pivot towards new revenue streams by getting more involved in the DER marketplace, by selling and maintaining such systems.
As major utilities find themselves compelled to move into the DER sector, the pressure will be on to deliver superior service experiences - efficiently and at scale. They will be faced with large numbers of new small-scale assets to monitor and service. So energy companies will need to make a focused effort to implement smart and predictive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and digital twins to turn the surge of data into actionable events. Market intelligence consultancy IDC predicts that by 2025, more than 50% of utilities will increase their automating operations budget to encompass AI, and ML technologies, thus doubling the penetration of predictive and prescriptive maintenance. This will be a major challenge, but also an opportunity for utilities to reduce costs while improving customer service.
Data, Decarbonization and Energy Efficiency
The pandemic has shown how the industry can be significantly upended, with some good consequences, such as reduced transport emissions. Many companies will be moving to decarbonization programs, and looking for greater energy efficiency. Numerous innovations will proliferate, including blockchain based systems, AI, ML, digital twins and the Internet of Things (IoT), as a way to deliver energy supply chain transparency, traceability, accountability, and most importantly, a better-quality service experience.
Although the past year has been a rocky experience for most people, there are many positive gains to be finessed in the future, including cost savings for the consumer, more efficient industries, and a reduction in carbon emissions over a wide spectrum of power producing and consuming organizations.