By Michael Zaura
One question I’ve been asked over the past few weeks is: “What future energy trends are you seeing, and how will they impact my business?”
As an energy advisor, I don’t take this question lightly. Keeping up with energy news and understanding how emerging technology will affect the energy market is important for current and future planning.
Recent energy news stories can give you a sense of where the industry is headed. 3 items you’ll want to keep an eye on are:
- Renewable energy generation,
- Energy storage technology, and
- The US-China trade negotiations.
Renewable energy generation is hitting new highs.
Renewable energy sources are rapidly increasing their foothold in our electricity supply. Just a few months ago, renewables surpassed coal as the top electricity generation source. In 2018, renewables accounted for about 17% of US electricity generation. This number is expected to grow as more solar panels and wind turbines come online.
Renewable energy options are more available and economical than ever before. Users are buying more “green energy” as opposed to traditional “brown energy.” Customers of all sizes — including businesses like Starbucks — are taking advantage of this opportunity in the market. Utilities across the country are offering new incentives for solar projects for both residential and C&I consumers.
Just 5 years ago, renewables were considered too costly and weren’t generating enough supply to make an impact. Overtaking coal this quickly shows us that renewables will be a big part of energy discussions and strategies going forward.
Energy storage is becoming more prominent.
As renewable generation increases, where is the excess generated power going?
The answer: batteries.
Energy storage is important. It’s also important that the stored energy can be dispersed when it’s needed. Think about a facility’s solar panels. Those panels are generating electrical energy while the sun’s out. When the sun goes down, the facility can use its stored energy to keep the lights on instead of going to the grid. However, if the battery can only hold an hour’s worth of power or can’t release the power efficiently, it won’t be very effective.
While the technology is good right now, the research being poured into it will only make the products better by increasing their capacity and flexibility. The “next big battery breakthrough” is coming. And as the companies developing these batteries continue to advance this technology, our energy future is only looking brighter! (get it?)
International events are impacting energy.
One topic the media has incessantly covered is the US-China trade negotiations. As the current world leader in natural gas and oil production, the US has some leverage in these talks. China is the #1 importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and the US is one of the world’s top 3 LNG exporters. Energy minds think this is great for trade, but it could also drive electricity and natural gas away from historically low rates.
Our clients usually ask us to look into our “crystal ball” and give our opinion where the energy market is going. No one know when these trade talks will conclude or how they might shake out. Acting now on historically low energy rates has yielded great savings for our clients over the past few years. How long this pricing environment will last is anyone’s guess, but the outcome of the trade talks is something we’re all watching very closely.
Keep these energy topics on your radar.
So, which one of these trends will have the greatest impact on your business? Chances are, it may be all of them, whether directly or indirectly.
- Depending on your organization’s sustainability goals, buying green energy through RECs or even investing in hard assets for your facility may be a consideration down the road.
- Having a reliable battery as an on-site source of energy in the future could keep your facility up and running during a blackout.
- Lastly, whatever the outcome of the trade negotiations, it makes sense to review your current energy purchasing strategy now while the markets continue to produce historically low pricing.
The chances of rates declining much further are far less than them increasing at a faster pace. Feel free to give me a call or comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts on the future of energy.
About the Author
Michael is a Senior Strategic Energy Advisor in the Chicagoland area. He specializes in manufacturing, hospitality, transportation, and renewable/green energy. Michael helps his clients craft energy strategies specific to their current and future situations. He is passionate about renewable/green energy and its growth, continuously learning through reading and sharing publications. He enjoys spending his spare time with his wife, daughter, and triplet boys.
Michael can be reached at (630) 225-4556 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.