The renewable energy power sector has proved resilient in the face of a pandemic. 2021 was a record year for the renewable energy sector, as solar and wind were the most affordable sources of energy.
Last year when we began our Clean Energy Trends series, we hoped for a renewed focus on climate justice and clean energy, increased corporate engagement beyond the big players, and a growing role of carbon emission in renewable energy development and procurement. This year we saw deliberate action in solar investments, like Meta’s newly constructed solar plants, as the world tackled climate change with momentous events like COP26.
Here are some trends in clean energy to watch for in 2022!
Increased Focus on Climate Justice
As we shift towards renewable energy and a clean energy economy we have to be extremely mindful when it comes to equity. There are already several issues to note as this transition begins. There’s a widening gap between solar adoption and communities in need of clean energy investment. Also, as fossil fuels like coal are phased out, jobs are lost which puts families and communities at risk. However, recent events like COP26 and reports from organizations like the World Research Institute show that thought into solving these issues is being pushed towards the forefront.
Holistic Sustainability for Entire Solar Project Ecosystems
Solar energy is a key aspect of the shift away from fossil fuels and improving sustainability. However, a major concern when solar farms are built is that the land goes idle instead of being used for cropland. Additionally, the installation of solar panels and the subsequent mowing of grass can lead to soil erosion, not to mention the fact that the mowers also produce emissions.
This is why holistic land management is key. Solar farms across the nation have started using agrivoltaics where they place solar panels and crops on the same land and essentially use the sun’s power twice! Other companies, like Silicon Ranch, are practicing Regenerative Energy by utilizing sheep to keep grass low eliminating the need for lawn mowers and reducing the potential for erosion. The sheep can then later be used for wool and meat. We expect to see the continued growth of these practices in the new year!
Increased Electrification of Our Economy
In 2020, we saw a 67% increase in electric vehicle purchases compared to 2019 and the switch to hybrid and electric vehicles is expected to grow even more. This is an indication that we are moving towards an electrified economy, especially when it comes to transportation. This is great news, considering transportation contributed the most of any sector to greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. However, this switch to lower-emitting vehicles puts a larger strain on our electricity grid which is mostly powered by fossil fuels! To ensure this growing trend of hybrid and electric vehicles remains sustainable, we have to transition to renewable energy and make sure those emissions aren’t simply being moved around.
Improved Energy Storage
As the continued expansion of materials and manufacturing grows, we can expect to see competitive battery storage costs in the next several years. The benefit of using battery storage is the convenience of saving electricity for later use. This is especially important for cloudy days in which solar panels are not operating at maximum production. As explained by BloombergNEF, the energy storage industry is expected to have installed 358 gigawatts (GW)/ 1,028 gigawatt-hours worldwide by the end of 2030.
New, Innovative Climate Solutions
Finally, we expect to see more entrepreneurs focusing on sustainability and creating new climate solutions. From carbon sequestration to alternative foods to unique solutions for increasing the availability of solar energy, we are seeing more green startups than ever. Governments and consumers alike are taking sustainability very seriously creating even more incentives for potential entrepreneurs to opt for their sustainable solutions.
And it’s not only new businesses! We expect more existing companies to start taking the climate crisis seriously. GreenBiz reported in their State of Green Business 2021 that “in large companies, there has been a significant increase in terms of the sustainability leader reporting to the CEO, from 19 percent in 2018 to 26 percent today.” Just take a look at our partners! From Patch to Hello Bello to Vista Equity Partners, there are so many companies working to ensure that their business is minimizing emissions and promoting sustainable practices overall
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