By: Ron Pernick
For the past 13 years, Clean Edge has published the annual Clean Energy Trends report that has sized the global market for solar, wind, and biofuels and tracked everything from venture capital and stock market activity to total global investments. This year, instead of issuing one single report, we'll be producing infographics, tables, charts, and webinars throughout the year – so be on the lookout in the coming weeks and months. In the annual report, we also picked our top trends to watch for the coming year.
Here are our top trends that matter in 2015:
- Moves Toward 100 Percent Renewables Will Expand
- Energy Storage will Carve out a Competitive Advantage
- Low-Cost Oil Could Impact Clean Transportation, but not Clean Electricity
- Other Regions will Follow New York Fracking Lead
Let’s take a closer look at the top trends and how they are likely to impact markets in 2015.
Moves Toward 100 Percent Renewables Will Expand. Naysayers will tell you that renewables will remain a niche offering that’s unable to provide large amounts of total electricity supply. But in 2014, the trend toward bucking this myth was on full display. In less than two years, Apple went from primarily fossil fuels to 100 percent renewables, and Amazon.com (at least for its data center operations) recently joined other tech leaders like Facebook and Google in announcing plans to get to 100 percent renewables. Denmark reaffirmed its commitment of getting to 100 percent renewables for all of its energy supply, including transportation, by 2050; it’s already close to reaching its goal of 50 percent renewables on its electricity grid by 2020. And late in the year, NextEra Energy announced its plan to acquire Hawaiian Electric. While its subsidiary NextEra Energy Resources is a leader in U.S. wind and solar development, its other subsidiary Florida Power & Light has been less than a stellar supporter of renewables deployment. The next year will tell which direction NextEra plans to take Hawaiian Electric, which already had plans to reach 65 percent of its electricity sales from renewable resources by 2030. These developments and others will shine a light on what’s possible and how getting to high-penetration renewables will become an increasingly achievable reality.
Energy Storage will Carve out a Competitive Advantage. Dozens of companies are jockeying for position in the energy storage sector, looking to provide customers with reduced costs, greater energy reliability, and improved resiliency. Costs are still an issue, but those hurdles are being addressed in ways similar to the recent
Low-Cost Oil Could Impact Clean Transportation Sectors, but not Clean Electricity. The one given for fossil fuels is their volatility. Sudden and often unforeseen geopolitical events, oil spills, and terrorist attacks can very quickly impact the oil price equation. Right now, with oil prices hovering around $50 a barrel (down dramatically from more than twice that level in mid-2014), it’s easy to think that the move towards efficiency and renewables will decline. But both clean-energy sources and efficiency improvements continue to be on a rapid
Other Regions will Follow New York Fracking Lead. One of the big surprises of late 2014 was Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announced ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the state of New York. A small but growing number of communities in the U.S. have banned fracking, but New York’s is the first statewide ban. While supporters of the natural gas industry generally downplay the impacts of fracking, the truth is that this is not simply a right-left debate, but increasingly a regional discussion pitting oil and gas interests against other industries and the public interest at large, especially around clean water supplies (highlighting the ever growing challenges at the water-energy nexus). While many ranchers and farmers initially supported
A host of other developments are likely to impact the clean-energy sector this year. In the U.S., these include the passage of the Keystone XL pipeline by the new Congress (and what steps, if any, President Obama decides to take in response); the new EPA carbon regulations and their impact on power plant emissions; the ongoing proliferation of distributed energy resources with utilities, regulators, and vendors battling over the future of our energy infrastructure; and the advent of U.S.-China climate activities and collaboration. Be on the lookout for Clean Edge analysis on all of the above and more, from a February webinar on U.S.-China clean-energy opportunities to the U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, our annual tracking of states and metro areas, in the spring. The markets for clean energy, from hybrid vehicles and green buildings to solar PV and smart meters, continue to show annual double-digit growth, all of which we’ll be tracking in 2015 and beyond.
Ron Pernick is