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Five Clean Energy Trends that Could Transform the Energy Sector in 2020

The recent breakthroughs in natural-gas extraction is a classic example of the sheer speed with which game-changing technologies are transforming the energy industry. With rising environmental concerns and clean energy becoming a necessity than ever before, we can expect to see several groundbreaking clean energy trends over the next couple of years. This article describes some of the key clean energy trends that could revolutionize the energy sector. While not all of these clean energy trends may succeed in the long-run, even if a few of them pan out they could bring considerable changes to the energy landscape. Furthermore, it is also possible that the development of energy technologies is approaching a tipping point that will generate increases in energy productivity on a scale not seen since the Industrial Revolution.

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Clean energy trends 2020

clean energyDigital power conversion

Large-scale high voltage transformers that were developed in the 1880s lead to the widespread development of the electrical grid, virtually the same technology continues to be used today. High-speed digital switches that are composed of silicon carbide and gallium nitride have been developed for high-frequency power management in military jets to high-speed rail. They are known to be highly energy-efficient and take up only about 1 percent as much space and are more reliable and flexible than the existing transformers. Today’s advanced applications include consumer electronics and variable-speed industrial drives for manufacturing. As such applications expand and the major semiconductor manufacturers begin to produce these technologies at scale, they could replace conventional transformers in the utility industry by 2020. China is particularly well positioned to reap the benefits of adopting digital-power electronics because of the scale of its planned grid expansion.

Blockchain networks

Blockchain technology would enable the buy and sell of clean energy at optimal times and will largely be driven by IoT and related technologies. This can play an integral role in boosting the performance of energy saving devices. This is a type of peer to peer network that effectively allows customers to trade energy. This may be done through the energy company itself, or even from customer to customer. Either way, this means that the majority of firms will need to capitalize on this emerging market. This can all be done in real-time settings and with the transparency that the blockchain network provides may prove to be beneficial to both businesses and their customers.

Leaders of companies and countries who neglect what is happening on the margins today risk being pushed to the margins themselves in the not-too-distant future.

Clean coal

Such clean energy trends could help coal-fired generators to capture majority of their carbon-di-oxide at a much lesser cost. The viability of this technology could also prevent the closure of several coal plants in the coming years. The same is applicable to plants situated even in China and Europe. However, this cannot be made a reality and be expanded at scale without supportive carbon regulations.

It may prove challenging for energy industry companies to rapidly changeover to clean energy sources, and to ensure successful transition organizations must be prepared to beat the hurdles. Get in touch with our experts to know how we can help you overcome major roadblocks in the energy sector.

Biofuels and electro fuels

With crude-oil prices skyrocketing, market shares for biofuels such as cane and corn ethanol are rising rapidly. Although second-generation cellulosic biofuels have proved harder to make than many had hoped five years ago, innovative start-ups focused on cellulosic and algae-based biofuels are starting to create high-margin specialty chemicals and blendstocks, generating cash now and suggesting a pathway to deliver biofuels at much cheaper rates in the next couple of years. Furthermore, biopharmaceutical researchers are developing electro fuel pathways that feed carbon dioxide, water, and energy to enzymes to create long-chain carbon molecules that function like fossil fuels at one-tenth the cost of current biofuels.

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Is the APAC Region Gearing Towards a Sustainable Future with Renewable Energy?

The world’s energy needs are constantly on the rise, and power companies are looking at all sorts of possibilities and modes to fulfill the increasing demand. It’s a tough task to produce enough electricity to power the needs of all the people across the world. A traditional source such as fossil fuel has been used on a wide scale as the most significant source of energy. However, due to environmental concerns and increasing emissions, governments across the world are slowly reducing their dependence on fossil fuels and are switching over to a cleaner source of energy. As a result, renewable energy sources have been grabbing the headlines more often. The APAC region has been regarded as the prime example for the adoption of renewable energy sources for their power requirements. Numerous reports estimate the energy demand in the APAC region to nearly double by 2030. The region is on the right path to meet such demands even after reducing their dependence on traditional sources. The Chinese government is expected to IR_Brochuremove away from energy production from coal, which kills thousands of people each year. So, what does the renewable energy future look like in the Asia-pacific region?

China

China is a world leader in wind energy generation and has ambitious plans to triple its solar power capacity by 2020. The country is aiming to raise its solar energy generation to 150GW and wind energy generation to around 250GW by 2020. Although the renewable energy sources accounted for approximately 14% of Chinese power, they expect to increase this figure to 22% by 2020. In 2017, China announced to scrap their plans to build 85 coal-fired power plants and instead pour about $350 billion into renewable energy. Additionally, the authorities reported that the country had exceeded official targets for carbon intensity, energy efficiency, and the share of clean energy source.

India

Similar to China, in 2015, India also announced their ambitious goal of increasing the renewable energy power capacity to 175GW by 2022. This plan includes increasing the solar capacity to 100GW, wind energy to 60GW, bioenergy to 10GW, and hydropower to 5GW. If they achieve this target, then they will witness a five-fold increase in power capacity in a span of seven years. Currently, India is the fourth largest installer of wind power behind China, the US, and Germany. India has been largely helped by the falling solar installation prices, with the rate falling as low as 4 cents a kilowatt hour to add 250MW of solar capacity in Rajasthan.

Japan

The shift towards a renewable energy future seems to be picking up steams in Japan. After the Tohoku earthquake, 2011 Tsunami, and triple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the Japanese government introduced a feed-in tariff system to promote renewable energy. The scheme made it mandatory for utilities to purchase wind, solar, mini-hydro, and geothermal energy at a fixed rate for the specified number of years. A report from IEEFA expects Japan’s solar energy to account for 12% of electricity mix by the year 2030. The report also estimates the renewable capacity to reach 159GW by the year 2030.

Others

The success of solar farms in Thailand coupled with positive development in other clean energy resource puts Thailand right on track to achieve its goal to reach the share of renewable energy by more than 37% by 2036. Additionally, the development of ultra-fast charging battery in Singapore is showing a promising renewable energy future as it can charge batteries up to 70% in just two minutes.

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Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy You Should Know

The origins of nuclear energy can be traced back to 1932 when physicist Ernest Rutherford discovered that immense amount of energy was released when lithium ions were split by protons from a proton accelerator. After subsequent discoveries from Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, nuclear energy was able to power nuclear reactor for energy generation. Today, uranium, a common element in the Earth’s crust, is the element of choice for conducting nuclear fission for generating electricity. Going by today’s consumption rate of the element, numerous studies estimate the IR_Brochurereserves to last for another 200 years’ worth of supply. Nuclear energy is distinct from any other source of energy and has its own sets of pros and cons.

Advantages of nuclear energy

Continuous electricity generation

Nuclear power unlike other sources of energy is independent of natural conditions. For instance, solar and wind energy is highly dependent on hours of sunlight or wind which doesn’t usually coincide with fluctuating energy demands. A nuclear power plant is generating electricity about 90% of the annual time which is relatively high compared to other forms of renewable energy. In comparison, natural gas generates an average electricity of 50% of the annual time, while coal and wind produce energy at almost 51% and 32% respectively.

Output efficiency

A significant advantage of using nuclear power over fossil fuel is the relatively low amount of fuel it is required to produce an equivalent amount of energy. The cost of nuclear fuel, i.e., uranium, accounts for only 20% of the cost of electricity generated. Such high levels of efficiency also make it easier in transportation, handling, and extraction of nuclear fuel and subsequently reduces the overall costs in the supply chain.

Clean source of energy

The only byproduct generated out of a nuclear power plant is used uranium which is safely stored in pools or concrete containers. Unlike other fossil fuel source, it does not emit CO2 causing air pollution and acid rain. Of all the clean energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro, nuclear power is the most significant source of clean-energy generation in the US contributing to 64% of the total output.

Disadvantages of nuclear energy

Radioactive waste

The radioactive waste generated as a byproduct of nuclear power is hazardous and has to be carefully stored and monitored for several thousand years. Although high-security standard is maintained to store this waste effectively, accidents can still happen with deadly consequences for both humans and nature. A nuclear or radiation accident such as Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Chernobyl disaster, and Three Mile Island accident have posed serious questions to the safety of nuclear energy.

High capital investment

Capital Investment

Although the fuel source of nuclear power, uranium, is relatively low, the cost of electricity is significantly driven by the high rate of initial investment for constructing a nuclear plant. So nuclear plant will have to run for a number of years in order to recoup the initial investment. Additionally, nuclear plants also have a limited life; after expiry, they have to be dismantled. The construction time for a nuclear power plant usually takes 4-5 years with a payback period of over 30 years which is relatively high considering other source of energy.

Fuel availability

Fossil fuels can be mined in many parts of the world, which is not particularly accurate for uranium, which is a very scarce resource. Only a handful of countries have uranium ores, and getting the approval from several international authorities is a tiresome process before building a nuclear power plant. As a result, not many countries can depend on nuclear energy to fulfill the energy demand.

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Top Five Utility Companies Powering the Electricity Demands of the World

Today, electricity is a vital part of our everyday lives, right from powering big houses and corporations to small mobile phones, which are an integral part of our lives. Every utility company plays a significant role in supplying the power from the source to individual houses using the grid system. The costs incurred while building such an infrastructure is insanely high.

As a result of such high costs, many developing nations are facing the issue of power shortage as they cannot adequately invest in the infrastructure. However, in the developed parts of the world, utility companies have set up massive infrastructure that distributes power to millions of households. It comes as no surprise that the utility company from these nations are some of the biggest in the world. Here is a list of top utility companies in the world.

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Duke Energy

Duke Energy Corporation, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the largest electric power holding company, not only in the US but also in the world. Its utility business unit provides electricity access to 7.4 million retail electric customers in Southeast and Midwest regions with a total capacity of a massive 57,700 MW. The utility company derives electricity from sources such as coal, natural gas, and oil. Their service territory covers 270,000 km of land with 402,700 km of distribution lines. The company reported revenues of $22.74 billion for the year 2016.

Engie

Engie, previously known as GDF Suez, is a French multinational utility company which operates in the field of electricity generation and distribution, nuclear energy, natural gas, and renewable energy. In 2008, the company broke the state monopoly and de-emphasized its historical role as a nationalized gas monopoly. In 2016, the company generated revenues of €66.66 billion by employing over 154,950 employees. In a bid to promote low-carbon distributed energy the company announced its decision to stop new investments in coal plants in the year 2015.

National Grid

National Grid is a British multinational electricity and gas utility company that owns and maintains high-voltage electricity transmission network in England and Wales. The company is the only owner and operator of gas transmission infrastructure in England and Wales. The company also operates 14,000 km of electricity transmission lines in the US, delivering power to the areas of Northeast states of Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, serving over 3 million customers.

NextEra

NextEra Energy Inc. is an investment company which operates in the US and Canada. The company generates electricity and is also involved in transmission and distribution with a capacity of about 45,900 MW. The company operates through various subsidiaries including Florida Power & Light (FPL), NextEra Energy Resources (NEER), and FPL FiberNet. With an aim to promote the use of renewable energy, the utility company attempted to purchase Hawaiian Electric Industries for $4.3 billion in the year 2014.

EDF

Électricité de France SA (EDF) is wholly owned by the French state and is involved in power generation, transmission, distribution, and energy supply and trading. The company handles 5 to 7 million customer accounts in the UK by the sale of gas and electricity to homes and businesses. The utility company is actively engaged in energy generation from renewable sources, which are reflected by its move to start the 62 MW offshore Teesside Wind Farm operations. The utility company consolidated its business in France and Europe to increase its presence in key emerging countries including Brazil, China, and Russia. The utility company also operations three of the top ten nuclear power plants in the world.

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Top 5 Hydroelectric Power Benefits

Hydroelectric power is one of the oldest forms of electricity generation dating back to hundreds of years where it was used to power domestic power lifts, sawmills, and to perform mechanical tasks like grinding grains. However, the use of hydroelectric power has evolved over time and it is currently the biggest source of renewable electricity. It also contributes to about one-fifth of the entire world’s electricity. The consumption and demand for hydroelectric power are continuously on the rise as it’s a clean fuel source and also one of the cheapest forms of energy today. Apart from generating electricity, hydropower can be used for agricultural activities, industrial uses in hushing, and powering IR_Brochurewater clocks. Here is how hydroelectric power benefits the society, nation, and the world at large:

#1 – Economic source of energy

One of the most pivotal hydroelectric power benefits is the relatively low cost of extracting electricity. For many investors, the upfront cost of constructing and installing hydropower plant can be very high. The prices include not only the plant cost but also the cost of building a dam. But once the power plant is in place, the cost of operation and maintenance is meager. As a result, the marginal cost of per kilowatt of electricity will reduce significantly. Also, since water is used in electricity generation, it is not required to be purified like fossil fuel. The source of hydroelectric power will remain perpetually and have an insanely long lifespan.

#2 – Renewable and clean resource

Since water is the primary source of hydroelectricity, the resource can be used until the end of time. A notable benefit of hydroelectric power is its ability not to consume water, as water powering the turbine ends up in the water stream again. They only derive the energy from moving water and convert it to electricity.

#3 – Eco-friendly

A recent report from the World Energy Council reported that hydroelectric power accounted for about 1,064 GW of installed capacity in the year 2016. To put that in context, each KWh takes about 0.36 kilograms of coal to generate. Thereby, hydroelectric power is an eco-friendly option compared to coal and fossil fuel, which accounts for a major chunk of  the total emissions. Also, using hydroelectric power mitigates the emissions of greenhouse gases that is equivalent to the combustion of 4.4 million barrels of petroleum each day. Additionally, hydropower production doesn’t have any toxic byproducts that would harm the environment.

#4 – Flexibility

An interesting hydroelectric power benefit is its ability to scale the supply of electricity as per the need. When the demand for electricity is low, excess energy can be used to pump water to an upper reservoir. Conversely, when the demand for electricity surges, the stored water is released to power the turbines. The drawback of other form of energy such as wind or solar is that they can only be used when there is sufficient wind flow or sunlight; whereas, water is constantly available. Additionally, at the time of blackout or peak demand, hydroelectricity can be flawlessly fed into the main electric grid system compared to other energy sources.

#5 – Picks up water shortage slack

Hydropower has various other uses apart from electricity generation. The collected water can be easily used for irrigation, for drinking water purpose, or rainwater harvesting. Storing water in such a way also assists in the reduction of vulnerability during droughts and floods. Additionally, impoundment hydropower can create a reservoir for recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, and boating.

 

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Challenges in Implementing Smart Grid and the Role of Data Analytics

The power production capabilities across the world have continuously been on the rise. Even with such an increase in energy production, many countries are facing energy deficit issues. In some countries due to limited supply, the energy prices have skyrocketed. Power authorities are placing their bet on new smart grid technologies to solve the existing problems in the power industry. Data analytics and automation technologies have enabled power companies to implement an efficient smart grid infrastructure. Smart grid provides benefits such as quick electricity restoration after power disturbance, reduced peak-time demand, integration of large-scale renewable energy systems, andIR_Brochure reduced operations and management costs. However, implementing smart grid poses its own set of challenges. Here are some of the challenges faced by the energy industry companies while implementing smart grid systems:

High operating cost

As per the recent Reuters report, implementing smart grid system in the US National power grid will cost up to $476 billion over the next 20 years. The necessity of a large communication and distribution network escalates the capital and hardware costs significantly. Apart from such infrastructural costs, energy companies will also have to invest heavily in smart grid R&D to assess the evolving benefits and costs.

Transition from legacy systems

Data management will pose a big challenge in the implementation of a smart grid. It accounts for all aspects of collecting, analyzing, storing, and providing data to users and applications. Additionally, it also includes data transition from old legacy systems. This in particular is a big challenge as old legacy system usually cannot be retrofitted with new technologies, which brings the need for entirely new technological solution. Companies also face issues when the volume of data grows from multiple sources such as vendors, municipalities, power utilities, IPP, and consumers at an unprecedented rate.

Complexity of smart grid

Smart grid is a complex machine that takes in input from multiple sources of data to efficiently distribute energy at a speed of light. The complexity arises as a result of multiple data sources, which will complicate the power distribution process. The smart grid has to take into account user behavior, human responses, as well as intelligent and automated responses, gathered from the analysis of massive amounts of data. On top of that, the power companies and government will have to take decisions based on financial constraints and environmental requirements.

Cybersecurity and data privacy

Another challenge faced by the energy industry during implementation is the prevention of damage to, exploitation of, unauthorized use of, and restoration of electronic information and communication systems. Companies are facing issues to ensure confidentiality, availability, and integrity of customer and operational data. Since the smart grid is a widely interconnected system, privacy is of significant concern for the power companies. The problem arises when assigning multiple levels of access to information for various stakeholders.

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Market Opportunity for a Leading Renewable Energy Provider Helps Improve Business Efficiency

According to recent statistics,  global energy investment in 2016 accounted for 2.2% of the global GDP.

The global energy industry is witnessing a transformation towards a service-driven economy, owing to the technological improvements and environmental concerns. At the fundamental level, population and energy efficiency improvements are influencing the organizations to shift toward renewable sources of energy. With the recent shift towards a service-driven economy, leading organizations are insisting on supplying energy with greater productivity and energy efficiency. Although the market for renewable energy is witnessing promising growth, several factors are hampering the overall growth of the renewable energy industry. These factors include:

  • The cost of production: Since countries across the globe rely on fossil fuels for their daily energy consumption, organizations are shifting toward alternate renewable sources of energy. With the raw materials being free and infinite, the cost of the equipment and materials are generally high as compared to non-renewable sources. Moreover, the advances in the renewable sources require a significant amount of initial capital investments.
  • Storage costs: If countries across the globe are relying on renewable energy, then storage becomes a major concern. Also, to bridge the growing demand for renewable energy, efficient storage facilities should be in place. The maintenance of such storage spaces is time-consuming and requires a lot of initial capital investment.
  • Stringent government regulations: To promote the use of renewable sources of energy, organizations are combining a series of major laws and regulations to control energy prices further, reduce competition, and drastically narrow down the imports. Also, these interventions in the tax preferences and subsidies may further affect the growth of the energy space.

To combat such factors and shift toward a more renewable space, organizations are leveraging market opportunity assessments. A well-defined market opportunity assessment provides a better understanding of the overall market scenario by categorizing the market into products and services. Moreover, with prominent organizations shifting toward a more consumer-driven economy, market opportunity provides assistance to the companies by maintaining a consistent awareness of the challenges and the barriers to entry.

The Business Challenge

  • The Client: Renewable energy provider
  • Area of Engagement: Market opportunity

A leading client in the renewable energy space wanted to identify the potential barriers to enter niche market areas and understand the market sizing and growth projections. With the help of the market opportunity assessment, the client wanted to profile the prominent competitors and build an accurate go-to-market strategy and business plans. The primary concern for the client was to provide market size estimates and identify the market requirements and the barriers to entry. Moreover, the client wanted to identify the demand-supply scenario for the services and tailor resources accordingly.

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The Journey

To determine the demand for renewable energy and enhance their offerings, Infiniti’s market opportunity experts carried out extensive research comprising of interviews and discussions with leading stakeholders in the energy space. To understand the competitive scenario, the experts at Infiniti further compiled information from a wide array of secondary sources such as paid industry databases, company presentations, and industry forums.

The Solution and the Business Impact

The market opportunity assessment offered by Infiniti helped the renewable energy provider identify new market opportunities and meet the different needs, requirements, and preferences of the customers. The engagement also assisted the client to gain a competitive edge over other companies and the market sizing and growth projections. The client was able to design a go-to-market strategy by taking into account the data gathered from a SWOT analysis. Through the engagement, the client gained a holistic understanding of the market and was able to improve their offerings.

The Future

With the relentless growth of technologies, the energy sector companies are expected to adopt large-scale IT technologies to improve service efficiency. Furthermore, leading organizations are looking for more lucrative opportunities for doing businesses across niche market segments.


A must-read case study for strategy specialists and decision makers looking to develop an understanding of the renewable energy industry

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All You Need to Know About Energy Storage: FAQs

How is energy storage helpful?

Energy storage is all about improving the way we generate, consume, and deliver energy. The utility of energy storage is more or less similar to saving money – they can prove helpful in meeting contingencies in the future. That is not all; storage systems ensure that they strike a balance between demand and supply, which helps to eliminate problems pertaining to energy shortage to a large extent. They also help in emergency situations like accidents, power outages, equipment failures, etc.

What are the uses of energy storage on a grid scale?

Energy storage systems are highly beneficial on a grid or an industrial scale. How, you wonder? They help shift energy consumption into the future so that the existing generating capacity is used efficiently. Secondly, they ensure that while shifting from one power generation source to another, there is no break in service. Finally, they facilitate the control and management of voltage and frequency to ensure that the sensitive equipment is not damaged in case of fluctuations.

Can energy storage systems work with all fuel sources?

Energy storage systems are fuel neutral, i.e., whether electricity is generated from oil, gas, solar, nuclear, or geothermal, etc., storage systems ensure that the excess energy from electricity is captured at a higher efficiency so that it can be utilized in the case of shortages or emergencies.

Why is energy storage necessary?

Storage of energy is highly essential to overcome the following challenges and contingencies:

Overcoming power outages: Efficient storage systems ensure that power is readily available in the case of any unforeseen events in the future, especially due to power outages. It helps prevent hindrances in the smooth functioning of equipment.

Pocket-friendly for customers: Storage of energy prevents providers from enforcing premium pricing during peak levels of demand. Storage helps avoid the shortage of energy, ensuring that customers are not charged unnecessarily.

Supports use of renewable energyStorage systems support generation and storage of energy through renewable sources, which in turn regulates and reduces emissions. They also help to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels; thus, helping to take a step towards environmental protection.


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Related Insights:

  1. Opportunity to Leapfrog into Energy Transition: Is China on the Right Track?
  2. The “Next Gen” Renewable Energy Innovations and their Pioneers
  3. 4 Renewable Energy Sources Paving a Green Pathway for Commercial Sustainability
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