A look into the future for renewables

By Sustainability Matters Staff
Monday, 13 February, 2017

The latest report by engineering company Lloyd’s Register focuses on the low-carbon sector, paying particular attention to renewable energy, energy storage and infrastructure. The research sought the opinions of leaders across the sector, as well as the views of almost 600 professionals and experts around the world, in an attempt to learn which low-carbon technologies will have the most impact in the future.

Respondents were asked to rate a number of technologies in terms of their potential impact, the amount of time it would take for these technologies to hit the market and how likely they are to be adopted once they do. Respondents were also asked to reflect on the pace and success of innovation in their sector, and what they see as the major drivers and blockers.

The report found that low-carbon generation technologies are indeed cost-competitive, with 70% of renewables respondents saying that renewables are now reaching cost parity with fossil fuels. Renewables respondents are most optimistic about the potential of advances in solar cell technology — and the likelihood of adoption.

Software advances will apparently be instrumental in transmission and distribution, as they are seen by respondents as the innovation that will be the quickest to arrive and the most likely to be adopted. It was suggested that Blockchain could reshape the way we think about the transmission and distribution of power by enabling a new era of peer-to-peer low carbon generation.

Respondents believe that electrical technologies will transform storage, rather than mechanical storage or chemical technology innovations. In particular, respondents expect supercapacitors, which will rapidly speed up charging times for large batteries, to have the greatest impact on storage.

While 71% of respondents agree that there has been an increase in the scale of deployment of renewable energy sources, deployment is still seen as a major barrier. Standardisation was meanwhile found to be a much-needed development for the low-carbon sector, with industry experts agreeing that regional and global consensus on regulations could speed up deployment and further reduce costs.

“We are very encouraged by the findings, which highlight not only a growing optimism across the industry but a vigorous and intelligent debate about the pathways to decarbonisation,” said Alasdair Buchanan, energy director of Lloyd’s Register.

“Clearly, there are many uncertainties about exactly how the industry will evolve, but what is inarguable is that the conversation is no longer about ‘should we?’ but ‘how should we do it?’”

‘Lloyd’s Register Technology Radar — Low Carbon’ can be downloaded from http://www.lr.org/en/low-carbon-power/technology-radar.aspx.

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