Major shifts — including new technology, rising oil prices and a changing climate — are encouraging investors to look to new energy sources. In 2020, power consumption and the industry as a whole is expected to grow significantly.
How the Energy Industry Will Grow in 2020
Emily Folk | Conservation Folks
Here are the biggest changes that industry experts believe are coming in 2020.
Continuing Rise of Renewable Energy, Fracking
Right now, there are two areas of the American energy industry experiencing significant growth: renewables and natural gas.
Nonhydropower renewables are expected to provide slightly more energy in 2020 — 12%, up from 9% in 2018, according to estimates from the Energy Information Administration. The biggest growth will likely be seen in the form of new wind farms and solar arrays.
Coal power is likely to suffer the most from the rise of renewable energy. Electricity generated by coal is projected to decrease from 25% to 22% in 2020.
However, coal is likely to be the only fossil fuel seriously impacted by the growing use of renewables. If current industry estimates hold, natural gas will continue to provide the majority of American energy and grow at the fastest pace over the next year, despite an apparent fracking slowdown. The rising price of oil is driving this growth.
New Energy Technology
Despite the enthusiasm, however, renewables continue to face significant challenges that may slow their adoption through 2020.
Unlike fossil fuels, renewables can't adjust their energy output to meet the needs of the grid. The result is a significant amount of excess power that is wasted without the right battery storage. While there have been significant advancements in batteries in the past few years, it still isn't possible to store excess energy at a grid level with current technology.
This may change in 2020. Advancements in home battery tech, coupled with changing consumer habits, may make solar energy much more common in individual houses. There are several big-name companies — including Tesla — that are manufacturing batteries designed to work with home solar systems.
These batteries are robust enough to store excess energy produced by a home solar system — which could encourage greater adoption of in-house solar technology.
The growth of solar may also be bolstered by new technology like floating solar arrays, which float on top of bodies of water and can turn them into solar farms. In the past, these arrays have mostly been limited to inland water. In 2020, however, we may see some of the first offshore implementations.
Other new technologies may impact the energy industry by reducing waste and making the grid more efficient.
For example, we're likely to see the first major steps toward smart grids — grids that intelligently manage the flow of energy using internet-connected sensors and systems — in 2020. These grids may be able to adjust power output, automatically report outages or even remotely shut down lines in areas where fire risk has grown dangerously high.
Smart grid technology may enable other innovations, like distributed micro-grids, which decentralize essential functions and can make the system more resilient to natural disasters or cyberattacks. As more companies search for ways to become more sustainable, it may be common to incorporate pieces of the grid into buildings with energy-saving sensors and equipment.
Changes Coming to the Energy Industry
Big shifts, inspired by climate change, rising oil prices and greater demand for sustainable energy sources, are coming to the energy industry in 2020. One of the most significant changes will be the continued growth of solar and wind power, possibly in the form of home solar systems and high-tech offshore arrays.
Internet-connected sensors and devices may soon automatically manage portions of the grid, making it more efficient and potentially more resilient to damage or failure.
At the same time, there are no signs that fossil fuels are going anywhere. Natural gas will continue to be the largest source of American energy. Despite a fracking slowdown, it could experience some of the fastest growth of any energy source.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
Emily Folk - Contributing Author
Emily is an environmental writer, covering topics in renewable energy and sustainability. She is also the editor of Conservation Folks.
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