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Today’s Top 10: A wish list for the renewable energy market in 2013

By John Peters, Managing Director, Engage Consulting

The global renewable energy market is evolving rapidly. John Peters from Engage Consulting looks into his crystal ball and discusses some of the changes that would enable the market to grow in 2013.

1) One thing I would like to see in 2013 is greater positivity about renewable energy. Currently, there is a great deal of scepticism about the benefits of renewable - for example, it is a commonly held myth that they don’t reduce pollution or they are a waste of time and money.

One of the most positive aspects of wind power is its potential for cutting risk. If a country is more reliant on wind power it won’t need to import as much coal, oil and gas, cutting its exposure to volatile world energy markets. The only thing a wind farm needs is the wind to blow. And of course, the units don’t create any chemical pollution.

Next year, high on my wish list would be to see some of the negative myths about renewables replaced by a more positive focus on their benefits and the valuable contribution they can bring to the energy mix.

2) If we want more people to use solar energy, then we need better looking photovoltaic (PV) cells on our roofs. Current PV cells are not the most pretty of things to have on the roof and don’t really add to the aesthetics of our homes. Better looking, if a little less efficient, might appeal to more people. 

3) Also, thermal solar panels are still considered a complex addition to the household plumbing. Solar Thermal devices need become a more normal everyday item so that the majority of plumbers know what to do with them.

4) It is good that there is a wide range of renewable power options now available for family homes. But too often the systems aren’t integrated and the technology that could link them together isn’t straightforward.

The ideal heating system would allow different types of heat sources to be combined together into a hybrid heating system.

The system would mix intermittent heating from solar PV, Solar Thermal and micro wind, potentially using a heat store. And it would make the best use of Time of Use electricity tariffs to drive heat pumps and top it all up with with gas, oil or biomass micro combined heat and power systems.

5) People will only adopt renewable energy sources en masse if the technology to support these hybrid-heating systems were more affordable and easier to install.

I hope that next year, this technology becomes more commercially available. Then we will see a time when we can use a combination of biofuels, solar thermal sources, heat pumps together with traditional fossil fuels.

6) In 2013, I would also like to see high capacity electricity storage that is affordable, compact and better than 80% efficient.

Storage on the electric grid is the only environmentally-friendly way to reliably add large amounts of intermittent renewable generation, such as wind and solar.

If you have effective storage you have more reliable renewable energy, less intermittent, stores energy for when it is needed.

7) Smart homes that optimise energy usage and avoid waste are high on my wish list too. One example of a smart home would be one in which heating systems only operate when people are in or washing machines scheduling the washing cycles in concert with the grid and energy markets to get the best price for the consumer.

8) Electric cars are here to stay and have huge consumer potential. However, their limited battery capacity is off putting. This is what the industry calls range anxiety, running out of juice before you get home! Lightweight high-capacity batteries are needed that will make electric vehicles competitive on capital cost and give them a range of over 400km of normal driving. 

9) We also need better infrastructure for charging electric cars, including car park charging points and effective micro-chargers, e.g. through the cars tires, including relevant commercial arrangements.

10) Next I would like to see the commercialisation of marine renewables such as tidal and wave energy.

My real pipedream would be a material that under sunlight acts as a carbon trap and extracts carbon from the atmosphere just like photosynthesis does, but faster and relying only on water and no other chemicals. 

Engage Consulting is a leading provider of consulting services to energy and utilities clients in Great Britain and around the world. The company is recognised as being experts in smart metering and smart grids.The company enables its energy sector clients to maximise return on innovation projects and increase long-term profitability within the RIIO framework, by helping design, build and implement secure and innovative strategies for smart grid. Its deep understanding of the utility sector enables it to anticipate the operational, technological, commercial and regulatory factors that will impact its client’s long-term business success.

Do you have a different Top 10 renewable energy wish list for 2013? Let us know and we’ll post the best Top 10s online between now and the end of January 2013.

 

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