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.
Clean energy trends 2020
Digital 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 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.
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.
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.