New technologies

The recent launch of a $1bn Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund for new energy technologies by Bill Gates and other leading global executives was a sign of the increased urgency towards finding workable clean-tech solutions. As Gates himself said: “We need affordable and reliable energy that doesn’t emit greenhouse gas to power the future, and to get it we need a different model for investing in good ideas and moving them from the lab to the market.”

In fact today there are a wide range of exciting new technologies that have the potential to transform and better regulate power production.

Smart meters

These provide accurate real-time measurement of energy usage and it is estimated that the market will grow to $18.2bn by 2019 at a CAGR of 10.2% from 2014-20191. The technology is already widely used across the EU due to various energy efficiency directives. Future growth will depend on the parallel growth of smart grid technologies such as advanced sensors and monitoring devices, and on increased knowledge among consumers and businesses.

A specific trend has been the adoption of more ‘time-of-day’ electricity tariffs for both businesses and consumers where prices vary between periods of high and low demand. Policymakers see such tariffs as an important part of making the electricity system more efficient and flexible, especially given the unreliability of renewable energy.

Energy storage

This is widely regarded as one of the keys to achieving the global transition to clean energy. Annual investment in energy storage systems is set to increase sixfold to $8.2bn by 20242, while it is forecast that between now and 2024 some $44bn will be invested in energy storage systems. At present the majority of stationary energy storage is installed by utilities, but by 2021 the market for storage capacity or systems installed in businesses and homes will become the largest segment.

It is forecast2 that the global battery market alone will soar to 25GW of storage devices deployed over the next 12 years. Battery storage plants can absorb surplus electricity at times of excess generation and then release it during times of increased demand, playing a crucial role in helping balance supply and demand.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

Although the technology which traps CO2 emissions and then stores them deep under the ground or sea has been around for many years, it is only now beginning to gain real traction. The world’s largest CCS project – the $1bn Petra Nova scheme – recently came into service in Texas and the facility, which is based on an existing coal-fuelled power plant, captures more than 90% of the CO2 from a 240MW slipstream of flue gas. Another large CCS project is nearing completion in Mississippi, US. The Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle plant will turn coal into gas and capture the carbon dioxide before combustion.

Subsea interconnectors

Electricity imported through subsea interconnectors has become a key source of power for many countries. There are several between the UK and mainland Europe with more planned, including the €1.65bn North Sea Link between the UK and Norway, the world’s longest. Electricity can flow in either direction depending on demand, and cable owners charge companies access to the power.

1 MarketsandMarkets
2 Bloomberg New Energy Finance: Global Energy Storage Forecast 2016-2024

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