5 energy industry trends to look out for

Author : Jürgen Resch, Energy Industry Manager at COPA-DATA

12 September 2018

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

According to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) International Energy Outlook 2017, global energy consumption will increase by 28% between 2015 and 2040. But what changes will have to take place to meet this growing demand? This piece provides an outlook on the industry's next few years.

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1.  Renewable energy

What was once referred to as ‘alternative energy’, is no longer really alternative. Renewable sources, like solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal power are now all viable options that are already effectively serving the energy grid – and the market doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In fact, according to Bloomberg’s top energy analysts, 72% of the $10.2 trillion global spend on new power generation will be invested in new wind and solar photovoltaic plants.

But despite these high levels of investment, renewable energy isn’t always reliable, due to
its intermittent nature. Solar or wind power, for example, is not always functional when there is a lack of sunlight or wind, and managing this will be a continuing challenge over the next few years. Nevertheless, renewables have secured their role in the energy portfolio – and are rapidly gaining market share.

2. Energy storage

Developments for energy storage have increased in recent years, as a way to support the increased, but sporadic generation of energy from renewable sources. Energy storage is the basis of many the new technologies that will join us over coming years – including Tesla’s famous Gigafactory, which aims to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy through affordable energy products.

3. Distributed energy resources (DERs)

The transition from a traditional, centralised power grid to a more distributed one will bring
significant changes over the next few years. DERs have the potential to provide power,
capacity and ancillary services to the grid, but as utilities begin to explore the capabilities of
DERs, more challenges will need addressing.

This includes incorporating intermittent generation from renewable sources, which, again, calls for developments in decentralised energy storage technology.

4. Blockchain

Europe’s first blockchain project to stabilise the power grid was launched in the final quarter of 2017 – and the project’s success has already begun to lead the way for the energy market’s future flexibility through blockchain technology.

In Germany, power grid operator, TenneT implemented blockchain technology to
better manage the flow of new energy sources when they are added to the grid. Meanwhile, storage firm Sonnen provided batteries to homeowners that allow them to store the power generated in their home when they are not using it. This pilot project is the first of its kind to use blockchain technology in Europe and is leading the way for the future of renewable energy source integration within the grid.

5. Internet of Things (IoT)

Not necessarily new, but the IoT will remain core to managing technological changes in the energy sector. With intelligent monitoring of connected sensors on smart meters, substations and DERs, the insight derived from these devices will be used to ensure safer on-boarding of distributed energy, provide secure energy storage and solve critical problems as part of blockchain.

The sector is experiencing rapid changes, but these trends should not be considered distinct or separate categories. In fact, the convergence of these trends is required to drive real change in the sector. Of course, comprehensive software will also play an important role in connecting these new technologies with the real world.

According to the EIA International Energy Outlook 2017, worldwide energy demand shows no signs of slowing down. To make the most of new generation methods, such as renewables, the industry must embrace new technology to manage the increasingly complex grid.

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