Top 5 Renewable Energy Trends for 2019: Why Hydrogen Makes The Cut
With the urgency of climate action in mind, here are five energy trends to look out for in 2019. They are not necessarily the biggest trends in terms of raw numbers, but they could play an outsized role in accelerating decarbonization and reducing the risks and impacts of climate change.
1. Natural gas loses grip on U.S. homes.
We’re putting this one first because cutting home energy consumption is one major key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Homes accounted for a full 16 percent of U.S. natural gas use in 2017, coming in third behind power generation and industrial users. Commercial users were fourth at 12 percent, and the transportation sector barely registered.
Electricity is the other major energy input for homes in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean all-electric homes are off the hook for methane emissions: The U.S. power grid still depends heavily on both natural gas and coal.
The good news: Renewable energy is beginning to push natural gas and coal out of the U.S. electricity grid. Taking advantage of that trend, in 2018 the Rocky Mountain Institute launched a new initiative aimed at transitioning the residential sector from gas to electricity.
RMI is taking a page out of the Sierra Club’s successful Beyond Coal campaign. The idea is to raise awareness about local impacts—such as methane emissions from drilling operations, power plants and the transportation chain—to push for new policies that incentivize gas-to-electric conversions for existing homes and promote all-electric new home construction.
Allies in the appliance manufacturing and construction sectors could contribute to the success of the effort.
What to look for: One important factor in home electrification is the falling cost of rooftop solar and home energy storage systems. Some homeowners may convert from gas to electricity for safety reasons, but the bulk of conversions will probably come from homeowners who spot an opportunity to squeeze the maximum benefit from their rooftop solar systems.
2. U.S. offshore wind industry gets a grip.
The U.S. is a global leader when it comes to land-based wind farms, but the country lags far behind other nations in the offshore category. That’s partly due to technology challenges for siting wind turbines in the deep waters of the U.S. Pacific Coast.
The relatively shallow Atlantic coast presents a different set of obstacles. Back in 2010, the Barack Obama administration laid plans for systematically developing wind farms on the Atlantic coast. The plan was stonewalled by Republican leadership in several coastal states, including New Jersey. An earlier offshore wind project for Massachusetts also foundered with an assist from a member of the Koch family.