Renewable Energy Trends for 2018
2017 has been a roller-coaster year for renewables. The cost of solar and wind plummeted, China smashed its target for solar installations – Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. So what do the specialists predict on the green energy or renewables industry for 2018?
1. Renewable energy prices will continue to fall
There has been a 62% drop in Solar power costs since 2009, whereas offshore wind prices have also halved in recent years, reaching £57 per megawatt hour in 2017. As a result, governments are seeing all time low prices for solar and wind power auctions, and subsidy-free solar and wind farms are currently being developed.
According to Jennifer Delony, associate editor of Renewable Energy World, belief the increase of country-level auctions for renewable capability could be a trend which will continue to drive down renewables costs in India and other countries – notably in the case of solar electrical photovoltaic(PV). “It’s simply the sheer power of competition in those auctions,” she says, “and I expect that competition to barrel forward next year.”
Mark Sisouw de Zilwa, technical director, oil and gas at ING, notes that investment in renewable green energy remained consistently high throughout 2017 however did not rise much, as a result of falling costs and overcapacity problems in countries like China and Germany – a trend that will well continue into 2018.
2. China will push ahead with its formidable energy plans
Although China is the world’s biggest polluter, it’s additionally the world leader in solar generation. Over the past decade its solar PV capability has increased by a factor of nearly 800, with over 54 gigawatts expected to be put in in 2017 alone. “They’ve surpassed their solar PV 2020 targets already, and I expect them to hit their wind target in 2019, therefore they’re creating great progress,” says James Wilde, managing director, innovation, policy and markets at the Carbon Trust.
In total China plans to invest £292bn in renewable power by 2020. Commitments made at the Paris climate summit will reduce the coal burning that has caused severe pollution in several of its cities, with greenhouse gas emissions expected to peak by 2030.
The country’s long-awaited national emissions trading scheme – the world’s largest – was launched on 19 December, 2017. This can effectively put a national price on carbon emissions across the Chinese power generation sector, that remains heavily dependent on coal-fired power plants.
Eight large-scale carbon capture and storage projects are also afoot, and China hopes to become a worldwide leader in electrical vehicle manufacturing and adoption. “China is investing a lot of in R&D than Europe is,” says Lisa Fischer, a policy consultant at energy think tank E3G, “so they’re really driving the business around renewables.”
3. Corporations will make bold commitments
By the end of 2016 the United States retailer Target had 147 megawatts of solar put in on 300 of its stores, creating it one of the leading corporate US adopters of alternative energy – and it’s far from alone in embracing renewables.
Apple’s new campus in California runs on 100% green energy, and Goldman Sachs is one of many banks that have joined RE100 – a bunch of powerful corporations committed to being powered by 100% renewable energy.
According to The Guardian, Wilde predicts more and more companies will make ambitious renewables pledges in 2018, a trend driven by “the falling prices of renewables, the very fact that the corporates wish secure energy, and also a number of the market opportunities associated with distributed grids and generation.”
Gerben Hieminga, a senior economic expert at ING, says green investors also are pushing harder for the revelation of corporations’ exposure to global climate change, and NGO campaigns are having an impact on company behaviour – a trend that will gather pace in 2018.
4. The renewables business will generate additional jobs
According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, around 9.8 million individuals currently work in the renewables sector worldwide. In fact, wind turbine service technician and solar photovoltaic installer are the fastest-growing occupations around the world. And the £17.5bn which will be invested in the Britain offshore wind sector ought to also create thousands of new jobs.
“In a way the renewables business is quite force intensive compared to the fossil fuel industry,” says Sisouw de Zilwa. “You need plenty of wind turbines, that have lots of moving components, to generate the same amount of power to a coal or gas plant. Thus you also want additional maintenance individuals to keep the electricity running.”
However, whereas demand for staff is actually growing, “there’s also an enormous shortage of skilled individuals, so could be a limiting factor on the speed of the energy transition,” says Hieminga.
5. Competition within the battery market will increase
In 2018 Tesla ought to complete its Nevada gigafactory, the largest battery manufacturing plant in the world. Not to be outdone, China has declared plans which will grant it the capability to supply virtually one hundred twenty gigawatt-hours of battery cells a year by 2021. Large-scale battery factories are planned for Sweden, Hungary, Poland and Germany.
In April 2017 the UK also declared the Faraday Challenge, the primary phase of a £246m investment in battery technology designed to boost research and development and place the UK at the forefront of the energy storage market.
However, it’s necessary to note that lithium-ion batteries don’t seem to be the sole type of energy storage that might see growth in 2018. “You will use pumped-storage hydroelectricity or compressed air energy storage, however you’ll also use water-based batteries, solid state batteries or hydrogen converted by electricity,” says Sisouw de Zilwa. “There’s plenty of various ways in which to store energy.”