Top 5 Developments Enabling Shift to 100 Percent Renewable Energy
A growing number of companies, cities, states and countries are aiming for, and achieving, a goal of obtaining power from 50 percent, 75 percent or even 100 percent renewable energy, thanks, in part, to a set of major developments that are enabling the resource shift, according to a new report from Clean Edge.
Commissioned by SolarCity, the report Getting to 100 discusses what is driving the transition to increasing levels of renewable energy consumption and identifies the successes and challenges of both governments and companies in targeting, and/or achieving, 100 percent renewable energy goals.
According to the report, these five developments are supporting the trend toward higher penetrations of renewable energy:
A resilient grid
A rise in net zero buildings and smart connected devices
Energy storage availability and affordability
Proliferation of utility-scale renewables
Cost-effective status of distributed solar across geographies
Distributed Solar Becomes Cost-Effective Across Geographies
The proliferation of ever-cheaper distributed solar generation – residential, commercial and community – is a key driver toward the 100 percent renewable energy goal, according to the report.
“The cost curves are undeniable,” the report said. “The plummeting prices of solar panels have been well-documented, but the industry has recently been attacking balance-of-system costs and so-called soft costs (such as marketing, customer acquisition, permitting, and installation) as well.”
The bottom line is that installed costs of solar PV systems around $3 per watt in the U.S. today will plunge around 40 percent to less than $2 per watt by the end of 2017, according to Deutsche Bank projections.
Utility-Scale Renewables Grow Up
A 100 percent renewable energy goal is not attainable without significant megawatts from utility-scale plants tapping wind, solar and hydropower resources, according to the report.
“Fortunately, wind and solar farms have soared in both capacity and generation output over the past decade, and are now viewed by dozens of utilities as key components of the energy mix, as hydro has been for decades,” the report said. “Along with natural gas, they are the fastest-growing segments of utility-scale generation.”
In the U.S., utility-scale wind and solar accounted for 47 percent of all new generation capacity that came online in 2014, and for nearly 70 percent of new capacity in the first half of 2015. In addition, the report said that most companies with 100 percent renewable energy goals are procuring at least some utility-scale wind.
Energy Storage Completes the Puzzle
The energy storage industry has begun to boom, thanks to technological innovations in batteries and economies of scale that have dropped storage’s price to the point where businesses, utilities, governments and even some individuals can afford it, according to the report. When paired with intermittent renewable resources, energy storage is providing a cost-effective resolution to the challenge of putting those resources on the power grid.