Let’s get one thing clear, the term ‘renewables’ is incredibly broad.
Nonetheless, there’s some exciting trends that seem to be cropping up in this space across multiple markets. Here’s my favourite four:
1. Energy Storage
The conversations I’m having now tend to be moving away from the newest form of renewable energy, with the focus now on how we store the energy that we’ve created.
2017 saw Elon Musk and his company, Tesla, win a bet worth potentially $50 million by constructing and installing a huge 100MW battery in South Australia in less than 100 days. This need was reinforced after South Australia experienced a state-wide blackout in 2016 and realised that they needed reinforcements.
In December 2017, there was proof the battery worked too, as it responded to a drop in power output from a major power plant in just 0.14 seconds.
With estimates that over $103bn will be invested into the space between now and 2030, energy storage is a topic that’s on the rise.
2. Integrated Renewable Technology
It’s a thing of the past to travel past a wind turbine or solar panel and gasp in amazement – no matter how much of an eyesore they can be.
Now the latest and greatest innovators in renewables are focusing on implementing unnoticeable, efficient sources of energy all around us - like solar roads in China, for example. Renewable energy sources that are integrated into existing products look to be the holy grail for many businesses at the moment.
Tesla are at it again in this sector too. They’ve started production on solar roof tiles, which are estimated to cost between 10-15% less than installing a new roof with solar panels. Tesla plan to introduce Tuscan and slate offerings available later in 2018 too, so there’s every chance that renewables could be environmentally friendly, cheap and stylish very soon.
Solar glass is an area exciting many in this field too. Truly transparent solar glass from companies like Onyx Solar could change the way we power hundreds of buildings and everyday devices. Self-charging iPhones anyone?
It’s safe to say that Donald Trump probably wouldn’t be the first choice POTUS of the renewable energy industry, and his appointment and subsequent actions have had many of my network talking. So far his plans to reinstate the US coal industry haven’t quite come to fruition, but the cuts to renewable energy budgets and steep tariffs on imported solar cells do look to be a step backwards when it comes to renewable energy policy.
Perhaps his most significant and worrying move since taking office has been to start the process of US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement - which wouldn’t actually take place until after the next US election. However, after saying in January 2018 that he feels ‘very strongly’ about the environment, many in the sector are hoping that the decision could be reversed.
4. Targets, Targets, Targets
US aside for now, the majority of the world are setting targets for renewable energy adoption and a reduction in energy usage.
A 125-strong list of household names including IKEA, AkzoNobel, Facebook, Google and LEGO have formed the RE100 – committing to be powered by 100% renewable energy. LEGO pledged to have gone 100% renewable by 2020, but announced last year that they had already hit the milestone three years ahead of schedule.
Moving into national targets, the EU set a 20% target for energy use coming from carbon free sources by 2020, with the proportion of energy requirements coming from renewables more than doubling to around 17% since 2004.
The strongest performers in the EU have been Sweden, who met just over 50% of its energy demand with renewables last year. The UK on the other hand has been struggling with these targets, as they ranked 24th out of 28 EU member states last year.
Further afield, Australia reported a record year in 2017 for renewable energy investment, putting more than $9bn into the technology - including paying Tesla for their battery. This marked an 150% increase in investment since 2016.
Like LEGO though, the real star performers on the international state when it comes to renewable energy have been China, also hitting their solar target three years early. Their targets for wind-generated power look like the next set to fall.