Renewable energy powers are set to boom.
As of now, renewable energy sources make up 26% of the world’s electricity, and will contribute to 30% of the world’s energy by 2024. Renewables are rapidly growing, they are cost effective and promise a cleaner energy toward a better future.
In fact, renewables have seen a huge growth in development since the 1970s, offering the benefit of lower emissions of carbon and other types of pollution.
Yet, let’s briefly rewind back to the days when solar panels were the coolest new thing you could imagine. New developments were closely watched and companies producing them had massive booths at trade fairs like Intersolar.
Later, they started becoming a commodity and the hype moved on to inverters. Even with that, the hype wore off just within a few years.
Then came batteries, with the promise of optimising self-consumption at home or stabilising the grid through Mega-batteries like Tesla and others.
But now even batteries are just a hardware component – and we are swiftly moving towards the Holy Grail: the smart, carbon neutral (or negative) household and economy – connected to smart, high efficiency devices and charging your electric vehicle and / or bike.
The fact is, renewables are growing faster and getting smarter, as the demand for the energy supply is increasing. So, let’s explore the advancements of these sources to better understand.
Battery storage systems played a vital role to allow energy to be stored during times of low demand and dispatch during peak hours. On the larger end of town, batteries will stabilise the grid and soak up potentially curtailed renewable energy power – when the influx of wind or sun or tidal power is too much for the grid to take.
This is happening increasingly in most parts of the world. A good problem to have you would think – but it is still a problem as it can make grids shut down in entire states, which recently happened in Australia.
Batteries are indeed great to help mitigate that – but other technologies are required to fill the gap of a massively increasing demand forecasted. Some of those technologies, or better energy storage mediums are rather old, like hydrogen.
Hydrogen production has been around for industrial and (agro-) chemical uses for many decades – but it has been labelled as inefficient technology and it is using a lot of energy.
But if that energy is clean, abundant, and unlimited renewable energy – stored to supply the grid when there is no other renewable energy source available or storing when there is too much renewable energy “pushing” into the grid – then that’s another story.
In Australia, the New South Wales (Australia’s economic power house) government lower house of parliament recently approved government funds to be invested in green hydrogen for this same reason.
Current state of renewable hydrogen in Australia
Green hydrogen projects are now a feature in all states, including the ambitious 235GW plan outlined by billionaire miner Andrew Forrest. Green hydrogen plans unveiled by BP and Siemens and many others projects are underway.
The Tasmanian government has set a target of 200 per cent renewable by 2040, in recognition of their green energy export opportunity.
The Japanese giant Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MH) has also recently bought a stake in a local hydrogen and ammonia project developer, H2U. This is a huge boost for Australia’s renewable hydrogen ambition.
Thanks to these continuous developments in green hydrogen and solar energy export plans, Australia now sits in the top third position on the Ernst & Young (EY) Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index in late 2020.
In the lead you will find non-surprising contenders like Silicon Valley in California and a rapidly closing in China, but also smaller tech-driven countries like Israel.
Increasingly, you can also find microcosms of these countries, states or regions starting up (literally) around new technology centres like EV factories.
Tesla’s Gigafactory in Berlin with a battery factory next door, for instance, is already being flagged and new tech ventures around fast charging for cars setting up or expanding. Ubitricity at Berlin’s EUREF-Campus being a prominent example.
Now the question is no longer about if and when this is going to happen, but at what speed are we likely to progress with these initiatives.
Moreover, which technologies will prevail and which of the countries, regions and cities are likely to profit from it. This will be measured by the number of jobs created and a subsequent increase in the standard of living.
The interesting thing to watch in the future won’t be if and when renewables are getting smart – but how and where and how fast. With technology’s ability of playing a huge part in mitigating the effects of climate change – the future looks cleaner and a little less scary.