Last week my article proposed the first five of ten predictions for activities, trends and changes that will occur between 2014 and 2020. To reiterate, 2020 is a milestone year for renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in twelve states. It is also a definition of normal visual acuity, and it is a concise summary of hindsight.
We’ve seen so much significant change in the past six years and will see more innovations in technologies, policies and financial drivers that build smarter cities as well as smarter grids. Here are the final five of my ten predictions of how much can happen in six years time, and give you ideas of how you can leverage these trends for your business and personal goals.
6) Debates about the future of the social compact for electricity services and the socialization of electricity costs continue. The first forward-thinking regulatory agencies are implementing policies that re-define utility business models and revenues for delivery of “electricity assurance” for commercial business continuity and residential quality of life services. You can go off the grid, but expect to pay for the utility to be your electricity insurer - the fallback for electricity when your systems fail to deliver.
7) EVs advance to 10% of the US car market. Although sales have been slow to date, changes in building codes and more charging stations make EVs easier to own and operate. However, the greatest motivator is money, as more and more vehicle to grid (V2G) service innovations create opportunities for EV owners to make money with their EVs. Entrepreneurs focus on creating profitable second uses of EV batteries once they are retired from vehicle use ranging from conversion kits for home energy storage to being bundled into cheap, modular energy storage for critical governmental infrastructure. EVs buck, rather than continue the depressing history of instant asset depreciation the minute cars are driven off the dealer lot.
8) Resiliency measures also become part of the definition of a smart building. There will be significant innovation in solutions that can be deployed in new buildings or retrofitted into existing building stock. For instance, an elevator company just introduced the first solar-powered elevator system – one that can operate even during grid blackouts. It includes battery storage so it operates at night too. Just consider how this one change to building infrastructure can make a big difference for residents of high rises. Parking lots and garages deploy PV solar. There’s an estimated 115 square miles of parking in California that could generate almost 1.5 TW of electricity daily. As solar energy replaces or supplements the electricity coming from distribution grids, utility revenues plummet even more precipitously.
9) Nanotechnologies help propel solar harvesting efficiencies past the 50% mark, and by 2020 research scientists are aiming for 75% harvest efficiencies. Advances in materials – such as quantum dot solar cells, melded with nanotechnologies – deliver more electricity in reduced spaces. Advances in manufacturing processes follow previous history, and solar farms replace existing technologies with cost-effective new equipment and produce more power without expanding their footprints.
10) There’s sufficient electricity production from renewable energy sources that we no longer talk about “renewables.” We talk about wind, or solar, or geothermal, or hydro, but as distinct energy categories instead of being lumped into one catchall category. In the US, coal is relegated to the ash heap, and toxic coal ash heaps become the focus of environmental cleanup efforts.
If you’ve been paying attention, you noticed that there’s a significant emphasis on resiliency in my ten predictions. Our interconnected economies and societies have an irreplaceable reliance on energy and communications infrastructure. How we proactively plan or reactively scramble will make for an interesting next six years and beyond.
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