We have gathered the latest news and trends surrounding renewable energy over the past few weeks, and we’d like to highlight the most important renewable energy trends that you need to know about.
We’ve researched and compiled the best trends for 2021 in one comprehensive space, and you can find all citations to their original articles below. Keep reading to find out why we’re excited for 2021!
Renewable energy will be the fastest growing source of electricity generation1
New forecasting by EIA predicts that the consumption of electricity in the United States will decrease by 3.6% in 2020, and expects retail sales of electricity to fall by 6.4% this year in the commercial sector and by 8.8% in the industrial sector. However, EIA forecasts residential sector retail sales will increase by 2.5% in 2020. Milder winter temperatures earlier this year led to less residential consumption for space heating, offset by increased summer cooling demand and increased electricity use by more people working and attending classes from home.
In 2021, the forecast natural gas share declines to 33% in response to higher natural gas prices. Coal’s forecast share of electricity generation falls from 24% in 2019 to 20% in 2020 and then increases to 25% in 2021. Electricity generation from renewable energy sources rises from 18% in 2019 to 20% in 2020 and to 22% in 2021. The increase in renewables’ share is the result of planned additions to wind and solar generating capacity. EIA expects nuclear generation to decline by about 2% in both 2020 and 2021, reflecting recent and planned retirements of nuclear generating capacity. The nuclear share of U.S. generation remains close to 20% in these years.
EIA forecasts that renewable energy will be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation in 2020. EIA expects the U.S. electric power sector will add 23.2 gigawatts (GW) of new wind capacity in 2020 and 7.9 GW of new capacity in 2021. Expected utility-scale solar capacity rises by 12.8 GW in 2020 and by 13.0 GW in 2021.
Delayed projects from 2020 will come online in 20212
The IEA forecasts that additions of renewable electricity capacity will decline by 13% in 2020 compared with 2019, the first downward trend since 2000. This is a 20% downward revision compared to our previous forecast in which 2020 was due to be a record year for renewable power. The update reflects both possible delays in construction activity due to supply chain disruptions, lockdown measures and social‑distancing guidelines, and emerging financing challenges. The outlook also takes into account ongoing policy uncertainty and market developments such as the most recent auctions and newly financed projects before the Covid-19 outbreak.
However, the majority of these delayed projects are expected to come online in 2021 and lead to a rebound in capacity additions. As a result, 2021 is forecast to almost reach the level of renewable capacity additions of 2019. Despite the rebound, the combined growth in 2020 and 2021 is almost 10% lower compared to the previous IEA forecast.
Green hydrogen is the next renewable energy wave3
Green hydrogen has long been thought as a key component to achieving major reductions in global carbon emissions. It has been held back; however, due to technological challenges related to its use and the cost of its production. Green hydrogen can be up to four times as expensive as grey hydrogen, which is produced by steam reforming natural gas.
Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis which is powered by renewable energy sources. Currently, excess renewable electricity is used to power electrolysers which is the only way green hydrogen can be created competitively.
However, renewable electricity is getting cheaper and is now at a point in many regions, where it no longer needs government support. This should lead to two eventualities which will drive support for the green hydrogen industry. Firstly, cheaper renewable electricity will lead to a more cost competitive green hydrogen which will also drive uptake in the market. In addition to this, as renewable electricity no longer needs government support to develop, Europe’s leaders will turn their attention to the two other pillars of decarbonization, namely transport and heat.
Alberta is leading the Canadian market for wind and solar4
While Alberta is well known as the home of Canada’s petroleum industry, it has also become the key province of interest for developers of wind and solar energy in Canada. Throughout the latter half of 2019 and through 2020 to date, wind and solar energy developers have announced a steady stream of new projects, coming online over the next several years. These are all significant projects, including the 117 MW Rattlesnake Ridge Wind project, the 132 MW Clareshome Solar project, and the 39 MW Burdett and Yellow Lake Solar Projects. These are not the only large scale renewable projects announced in Alberta over the past 12 months, but they do have one thing in common: they have publicly announced a contract with a customer (or off-taker) that has agreed to purchase a bundle of both electricity and carbon credits.
Alberta is currently Canada’s leading market for renewable energy investment and a lot of that is because of the unique opportunities to secure bilateral corporate off-take agreements in the Alberta market as a result of:
Alberta’s world class renewable resources, which make wind and solar cost competitive with other fossil fuel generation.
Alberta’s Energy Only Market, which provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to make investments and sell power to customers on both an hourly and a long-term basis
The TIER regulation, which provides opportunities for renewable energy generators to monetize and generate revenues from the environmental benefits they bring to the system.
Oil giants joining electric utilities in pushing federal leaders to strengthen GHG emission rules
In a renewed sign that energy companies are progressing beyond whipsawing U.S. government policy on environmental issues, three major oil companies are pushing for a reversal of the Trump Administration’s rollback on methane emissions from natural gas operations.
Royal Dutch Shell announced it wants a future Biden Administration to reverse the Trump rollback on methane, according to a new story by Bloomberg. Meanwhile, ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum also have revealed plans to target net-zero green greenhouse emissions in the not-too-distant future.
This follows moves by most of the major U.S. utilities to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. More than a dozen states also have announced net-zero goals in the same time frame.
These reduction plans are coming despite extreme presidential responses to emissions goals in the power sector. Obama’s Clean Power Plan was a direct response to less stringent Bush Administration rules, while Trump’s EPA gutted the CPP in favor of its own Advanced Clean Energy goals.
In other words, energy businesses are going their own road when it comes to future environmental goals, not waiting for the government to lead the way.
Distributed Energy Resources (DERs)
Distributed energy resources (DERs) enable the generation of electricity or heat at the place of its consumption. The absence of a network eliminates the loss and cost of energy transmission.
This implies the presence of many consumers who produce energy for their own needs, directing their surplus to the common network. Within the framework of this concept, small and medium power generation units act as distributed energy generators. Further, it reduces energy production costs and makes optimum use of existing energy generation capacity.
DERs can include behind-the-meter renewable and non-renewable generation, energy storage, inverters (electronic devices that change direct current to alternating current), electric vehicles and other controlled loads (separately metered appliances like hot water systems. DERs also comprises of new technology like smart meters and data services.
Although today’s technologies provide sufficient levels of generation, they lack cost-effective energy storage solutions. Effective and efficient energy storage enables stable pricing by proactively managing the demand from consumers.
By having the opportunity to purchase energy for future use, consumers can potentially stock up on it during ideal conditions, allowing them to help reduce grid loads during peak times. When paired with renewable generators, batteries can provide cheaper and reliable electricity in isolated grids and off-grid communities, as compared to expensively imported diesel fuel for electricity generation.
Battery storage solutions are emerging as one of the key solutions to effectively integrate high shares or solar and wind renewables in power systems worldwide.
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It looks like 2021 will be a promising year for renewables, and N-Sci is excited to see it. Whether you’re looking to start a renewable energy project, update any existing electrical infrastructure, or just save some money on your monthly bills; N-Sci can help you reach your energy savings goals. We pride ourselves in providing many renewable or alternative energy services, including site selection, design, project management, smart grid and energy storage, and more. Check out our What We Do page on our website to find more information.
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Your trusted source for energy engineering,
The N-Sci Technologies Inc. Team
1EIA. (2020, November 10). Short-Term Energy Outlook. U.S. Energy Information Administration Independent Statistics & Analysis. https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/pdf/steo_full.pdf
2IEA. (2020, May). Renewable Energy Market Update. Retrieved from https://www.iea.org/reports/renewable-energy-market-update/2020-and-2021-forecast-overview
3O’Driscoll, Kieran. (n.d.). Trends in Environmental Energy to Watch Out for in 2021. Retrieved from https://www.mtcthecontentagency.com/trends-environmental-energy-2021/
4Wilson, Evan. (2020, September 14). Alberta is Canada’s Primary Destination for Wind and Solar Energy Investment. Retrieved from https://renewablesassociation.ca/alberta-is-canadas-primary-destination-for-wind-and-solar-energy-investment/
5(2020, November 12). Oil giants joining electric utilities in pushing federal leaders to strengthen GHG emission rules. Retrieved from https://www.power-eng.com/2020/11/12/oil-giants-joining-electric-utilities-in-pushing-federal-leaders-to-strengthen-ghg-emission-rules/
6Birch, Scott. (2020, November 23). Top 10 Energy Trends. Retrieved from https://www.energydigital.com/top10/top-10-energy-trends/distributed-energy-resources
7Birch, Scott. (2020, November 23). Top 10 Energy Trends. Retrieved from https://www.energydigital.com/top10/top-10-energy-trends/energy-storage