The Renewable Energy Trends of 2021
Renewable or clean energy can be generated in a multitude of ways - you can harness power from the sun, the tides and waves of the ocean, the wind and even geothermal heat.
If your goal this year is to reduce your business’s reliance on traditional energy sources in favour of greener options, 2021 could be the year to do it. We’re predicting huge advancements in green initiatives and emerging renewables and technologies.
New generations of improved renewables
We’re already beginning to see some exciting improvements to existing renewable technologies as well as the emergence of geothermal energy for the first time.
Crystal-enhanced solar panels
In 2020 an Oxford-based technology company discovered that coating the silicon outer layer of solar panels with a crystal material called perovskite made them generate about 30% more electricity. We can expect to see these make an emergence on the market in 2021.
2021 is a stand-out year for geothermal energy as United Downs, the UK’s only deep geothermal site, has just signed their first contract. This will be the very first time that geothermal heat will be used as a commercial power source in the UK.
Deloitte is predicting that hydrogen developments will serve as a means of storing on-demand fuels such as wind and solar power. While this may only serve as a seasonal solution for now, the consultancy is forecasting that it will go a long way to cutting carbon emissions and generating power that can be used for grid balancing.
Long-life storage facilities
The next stage of solar power is the development of battery storage options which offer commercial returns. Currently our customers seeing the highest ROIs from solar PV are those using the majority of their solar generation onsite and exporting anything remaining to the grid. In the ideal world any solar PV unused would be stored in a battery for later use. However, whilst the cost of batteries is coming down all the time, at present they are not able to offer the financial returns for us to really recommend this as an option. Much research is going into battery development and recently, experts have produced new forms of energy storage with an improved lifespan that will allow green energy users to harness and store more renewable energy for longer use. Furthermore, it is expected that the cost of storage batteries is going to continue to decline in 2021 and beyond.
More carbon neutral companies
UK companies have been consciously looking to reduce their carbon footprint for some time now, but in recent years there has been a growing number of businesses that want to ambitiously reach for a carbon neutral status. This can only be achieved through a combination of efforts including reducing energy consumption and creating renewable energy sources on-site and purchasing further renewable energy sources where needed to offset their other carbon-emitting activities.
Taking steps to become less dependent on traditional energy methods is beneficial in many ways. The pull from achieving such a status can lead to a more favourable public image and - as more individuals and organisations are choosing to support more environmentally conscious companies - a growth in client base and an increased likelihood of winning tenders with Government bodies and large corporations.
The financial benefits are also very enticing. There are often local grants available to help businesses cover the installation costs of renewable energies, and when you take into account that solar produces an ROI at 14-16%, going green can be a great way to increase a business’s bottom line.
COVID will create a greener world
2020 saw the share of electricity generated by renewable energies exceed 40% in the UK for the first time. Overall, renewable energies produced 41% of the UK’s electricity production in 2020, which is a 6% increase from 2019. The European Union also reported a decrease of traditional energy sourced and an increased share of renewable power generated. Ember reported that around 40% of the EU’s energy used in the first half of 2020 was generated from renewables and 34% was from fossil fuels.
As lockdowns continued around the world, the oceans and rivers were clear and the air was pollution-free for the first time in decades. Seeing the impact of human behaviour on the world was a real wake up call and drove a renewed vigour for tackling climate change. This is a trend we’re expecting to continue into 2021 and beyond.
Already, we’re seeing Government action to carry on the good work. The UK has signed a 10-point plan for green recovery, newly elected POTUS Joe Biden has vowed to implement oil and gas limitations and invest in green energy, and China has recently pledged to become carbon neutral by 2060.
Renewable power sources will be cheaper
Forbes is reporting that solar power prices around the world are consistently sinking. In contrast, gas and electric prices in the UK are about to increase. Costs are also falling for on- and off-shore wind projects. 2021 is shaping up to be the year that switching to renewable energy sources makes more fiscal sense than remaining with traditional energies. Both SMEs and larger organisations may benefit from switching out or supplementing their current energy provider with a greener alternative.