Aggressive innovations by energy solutions providers—in response to pressures such as corporate demand and policy changes including the Paris Climate Accord—has accelerated the development of new clean technologies. Corporate adopters across a wide variety of industries are championing these new energy opportunities, including wind and solar power, distributed generation, energy storage, and other disruptive technologies.
We are seeing companies grow increasingly willing to test out new cleantech in order to create operational efficiencies, reduce environmental impacts, and cut costs—or even potentially generate ROI. In our latest white paper, New Energy Opportunities: Innovations That Shape How Companies Manage Energy, we explore several of these cutting-edge technologies, uncover the benefits and challenges of each, and learn by example through case studies on organizations that are already embracing the promising future that these new energy technologies offer.
Though by no means exhaustive, each of the innovations we cover in this report provides a preview to the future of corporate energy management and technologies on the horizon for forward-thinking commercial, industrial, and institutional (C&I) buyers:
1. Renewable Energy: Foundational technologies of the new energy landscape
Renewable energy is already shaping the way companies buy and sell energy today. C&I buyers are utilizing clean power more than ever before. Often referred to in the past as an “alternative,” renewable energy is becoming a centerpiece of many corporate energy management programs. More than 100 global companies have signed on to the RE100, committing to source 100% of their electricity from renewable sources.
In the U.S., C&I purchasers were responsible for 52% of the contracted capacity of new wind power in 2015, and, in total, have helped add more than 8,000 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar to the U.S. grid since 2010. Additionally, some of the most notable C&I Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) deals in 2016 occurred outside of North America. Google, Facebook, and Nestle are among the first corporations to venture into international renewable energy markets to provide clean power for facilities abroad. Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs) and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are increasingly available to meet the growing demand for green power of compliance and voluntary markets
2. Microgrids: Decentralization of new energy opportunities, take back control of your energy strategy
Today’s market forces are leading to a departure from a highly centralized power system and a return to smaller scale, localized systems that optimize power demand, consumption, and management. Microgrids are emerging as one of these decentralizing technologies that companies are considering because they bring together a combination of clean technologies such as distributed generation, batteries, and renewable resources to help organizations operate autonomously from the traditional electrical grid. C&I energy buyers can realize substantial near-term cost savings by implementing technologies embedded within a microgrid that insulate their facilities from the risk and changing cost components of an ever-evolving energy market.
3. Energy Storage: Empowering organizations to decarbonize at scale
Batteries and other types of storage play a key role in enabling companies to embrace clean, low-cost, renewable energy at a higher level. By mitigating the intermittency issues that renewable power sources like wind and solar face, storage helps remove a significant barrier that has prevented greater adoption of wind and solar resources.
As the price for batteries and other storage solutions drops, corporate buyers will be well poised to maximize energy investments, while contributing to the clean energy transition. Additionally, with microgrid opportunities on the rise, energy storage in conjunction with other new energy opportunities, very well may become commonplace for companies in the not-so-distant future.
4. Fuel Cells: An emerging energy investment worth serious consideration
Fuel cells electrochemically combine a fuel (ranging from pure hydrogen to natural gas or biogas) with oxygen and convert the resulting chemical energy into electricity without any form of combustion. Because they require a constant, steady source of fuel to produce electricity, fuel cells are able to provide a continuous, baseload source of clean electric power.
As a baseload resource, fuel cell technology helps bridge the gap where other renewable energy sources face challenges. The intermittency issues that wind and solar must overcome are not a concern for fuel cells. Partnered with other renewable technologies, fuel cells can balance the difference between demand and generation of intermittent resources. Though fuel cells are not without challenges, such as their high capital cost, embracing a clean energy transition relies on a diverse portfolio of cleantech solutions. As fuel cells overcome these challenges to adoption, in the same way other clean technologies have found success, they should become a vital technology to carefully consider within the active energy management landscape.
5. Blockchain: Digitization of new energy opportunities for more efficient transactions
Blockchain technology is a distributed, digital ledger used to record and track transactions. It uses sophisticated algorithms to validate, encrypt, and instantaneously record transactions for virtually anything of value in a secure and decentralized manner. Energy is one area of interest for blockchain applications.
Currently, the only means to track renewable energy generation is through EACs, and information sharing among market participants is a manual process. With blockchain, EACs can be created instantaneously as renewable energy is put onto the grid—no matter the size or physical location of the producer. With the increased autonomy that blockchain introduces, corporate energy buyers may find it easier to accomplish these goals—and at a lower cost and time commitment.
A digitized, decentralized, decarbonized grid demands active energy management—and to actively manage an energy portfolio means to think critically about not only where your company is in its energy journey today, but where it is heading in the future. Managing a global footprint by implementing clean technologies is a key part of maintaining a cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable energy management program. To explore how these technologies on the horizon may benefit corporate buyers, and to hear from companies already utilizing them, we invite you to download New Energy Opportunities: Innovations That Shape How Companies Manage Energy.