5 Challenges in Renewable Energy in 2021

SHAIVI CHAPALGAONKAR | April 20, 2021 | 454 views

Energy is an important feature in the economic and political development of a country. In developed nations like the USA, energy expansion has now reached a point where renewable energy sources also play a large part in the production of electricity.

To meet the energy demands of the country, most production of renewable energy comes from fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources.

Around 25% of the world’s energy is generated with renewable energy resources- mainly solar, wind, hydropower, and in some cases, geothermal. It is one of the fastest-growing electricity sources.

Renewable energy is collected from resources that are abundantly available in the environment, like the sun or wind. There has been a growing interest in renewable energy production as fossil fuels are depleting. In most parts of the world, renewable energy has become a primary source of energy production.

Renewable energy is preferred as they produce fewer greenhouse gases than non-RE sources. There are several other advantages to renewable sources like lower carbon emissions, reduced air pollution, and other socioeconomic benefits.

However, unlike non-RE sources, there are challenges in renewable energy like economic, political and regulatory barriers, structural, social, and technical challenges which require advancement in technology, and a heavy investment with a proper understanding of obstacles it faces. Some obstacles are due to technology associated with renewable energy, whereas others are because of policies, marketplace, regulations, and infrastructure.
 

Impact of Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world to a grinding halt. It has severely impacted individuals and businesses alike, with many of the latter being closed down permanently. Similarly, the pandemic has also impacted the expansion of clean energy systems by forcefully curbing any investments.

The technology and adoption of renewables have been making uneven but sure progress. The global pandemic has slowed down this development. According to International Energy Agency, the global share of electricity supply from renewables had reached 28% in 2020 from 26% in 2019, but the growth is expected to slow down further. The total energy supply is set to reduce by 13% from 2019. This substantial decline can be attributed to supply chain disruptions, lockdown, and emerging financial problems. Transport biofuel production and renewable heat consumption are projected to decline due to lower industrial activity.

Governments have an opportunity to promote and accelerate the use of clean energy by incentivizing building, technology, and infrastructure across the country. This would be crucial to rebuilding the economy, create jobs, and build efficiency.

Capital Costs and Investment

The most obvious challenge of widespread adoption of renewables is cost, predominantly infrastructure costs like building and installing solar and wind power plants. Although it is quite cheap to operate and maintain solar and wind power plants, installation becomes more and more expensive.

Over the last few years, even though the prices of installation of solar panels has fallen significantly, it remains higher than non-renewables. On average, a 2-kilowatt solar panel system costs $4,159 after tax credits, whereas the capital cost of a gas-fired power plant would cost lesser than that.

In the last two years, investment in renewables has increased, but that is only because the investments in fossil fuels have been rapidly falling. Clean energy investments still fall short of what is necessary to convert into a more sustainable future. To ensure continuous investment in sustainable energy, policymakers have to focus on short investment turnaround, focus on rapid environmental gains favoring cleaner energy generation.
 

Power on demand

One of the most significant challenges of renewables is the ability to provide power on demand. In the case of solar power, you only get energy during the day and only when it is sunny. As for wind energy, power is generated only when it is windy. There is an intermittent generation of power in renewables which wouldn’t be a problem if there were appropriate energy storage solutions. The biggest test in providing power on demand is storage. Even if homes, businesses, or states install wind energy systems or solar panels, storing the generated energy is still an unsolved issue.

Opponents of renewable energy highlight the reliability factor on solar and wind to augment support for coal, gas, and nuclear plants, which provide baseload power. This argument is used by lobbyists to drive out investment into renewables, thus becoming a barrier to widespread adoption of wind and solar energy.
 

Location challenges

Renewable energy plants have grids that require a large area of land. It can be unappealing to customers to switch to renewable energy sources as it is conditional depending on the size of the land. Not all states and regions are apt to build solar panels or have wind turbines as they are dependent on the geographical location. For example, building solar panels in California makes more sense than building them in New York as the former has an abundant supply of both sun and land.

Renewables operates on what is known as a decentralized model. In a decentralized power plant, small generating stations are spread across a larger area that works collectively to deliver power. In the case of coal, nuclear power, or natural gas, they are highly centralized and depend on fewer high output power plants.
 

Siting

Decentralized systems prove to be a problem for siting and transmission of energy created by solar or wind. Siting is needed to move blades or solar panels to large pieces of land. To do so requires to draw up contracts, negotiate, acquire permits, or build community relations; all of this can delay or kill a renewable project even before it begins.

Businesses can incur additional charges due to demand and delivery which seems like a significant challenge for them. Utility services apply these charges to recover costs of purchasing energy and maintaining power lines and energy lost in the transmission system. Moving power sources closer to your business will help you avoid such preventable expenses.
 

Transmission

The next challenge to overcome in renewables is the transmission of generated electricity. Transmission means the transfer of electricity from where it is generated to where it is consumed. Most transmitters that exist in this day and age are built for coal and other fossil fuels and not renewables. To make things easier for transmission of clean energy, there needs to be a significant infrastructure and technological development, which cost a lot of money.

Making the economics work with financing and siting can prove costly for developers and customers alike.
 

Policies and Regulations

Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry is backed by multi-billionaires who wield a considerable amount of political influence. This severely affects the chances of expansion for the renewable industry. Industry experts estimate that the USA spends upwards of $60 billion on subsidies for fossil fuels every year. The taxpayers have helped fund the industry’s research and development, drilling, mining, and generation of electricity. Renewables like wind and solar enjoy much lesser subsidies and political backing. The fossil fuel industry has used its enormous power to spread misinformation about climate change.

To increase public interest and investment in renewables, there need to be clear and concise legal procedures and regulatory policies. Having proper regulations in place creates a stable environment for investment and overcome hurdles and can anticipate the revenue streams. Large-scale renewable energy projects require a large amount of capital which is hindered by the failure of proper policies that fail to attract private players.
 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is a major challenge with using more renewable energy?

Renewable energy is competing with fossil fuels and nuclear technology. Other major challenges include underdeveloped infrastructure and lack of economies of scale.

What are the benefits of using renewable energy?

Some benefits of using renewable energy are lower energy costs, reduction of emissions, massive positive impact on environment, and marketing opportunities for businesses.

Is renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels are subsidized which makes it cheaper at the beginning. However, renewables get cheaper to maintain over the years hence making it cheaper than fossil fuels.

What is the cheapest source of renewable energy?

Solar PV and on site wind are the cheapest sources of renewable energy sources.

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Itron, Inc. (NASDAQ: ITRI), which is innovating the way utilities and cities manage energy and water, and SmartThings, Inc. are working together to provide an integrated energy experience by connecting Itron’s industrial IoT (IIoT) network solution and SmartThings’ services and solution. The companies plan to combine their industry leading IoT platforms to allow utilities to unlock the user experience and rapidly enhance value to both the consumer and the utility through improved distributed energy management, accelerated carbon reduction and enhanced consumer engagement.The collaboration will combine Itron’s proven distributed intelligence (DI) ecosystem, which features millions of connected endpoints, with SmartThings Energy service1 to provide real-time energy readings and consumption patterns to improve energy management and conservation. The combined solution, which will support multiple connectivity options, will bring together participating consumers’ real-time consumption data from their meter, behind the meter assets and appliances all within the SmartThings Energy, giving the consumer a complete picture of their energy consumption. Consumers that opt into their utility’s program will gain greater visibility into their energy use and reduce their usage while enabling utilities to improve overall grid management and visibility as well as advance carbon reduction goals. For example, utilities will be able to enhance their demand response (DR) programs with AI Energy Saving mode combined with high-fidelity real-time data from Itron’s IIoT solution to initiate DR events for participating consumers, reducing the energy load of their appliances. Benefits of the collaboration include: Enhancing value to consumers – A complete view of consumers' energy consumption can be obtained through the application, which displays both the whole house real-time consumption information provided by Itron as well as the preexisting app features that show real-time data use of smart appliances. Enhancing value to utility – Utilities will be able to engage the rapidly growing base of SmartThings app users to enroll in energy efficiency, demand response and EV charging programs. A total of 230 million people have downloaded the SmartThings app, and Samsung expects to grow to 500 million users within five years. This combined with Itron’s millions of connect DI devices will allow utilities to enhance their distributed energy management programs. Enhancing the enrollment experience – SmartThings’ enhanced enrollment experience can be applied into utility programs for energy efficiency, demand response, and EV charging – directly from the SmartThings application. Using this comprehensive view of energy consumption over time, utilities may identify likely customers to enroll EV and solar customers into the application. Enhancing innovation with improved high-fidelity data – Itron, its utility partners, and SmartThings can leverage the cloud-to-cloud integration to provide consumers with an easy, secure way to authorize data access to DI application data, whole building consumption data and more. Consumers can also securely share data from their millions of connected devices with the utility or authorized third parties to enable seamless collaboration. More details and information about Itron and Samsung SmartThings’ collaboration will be available soon. “We are excited to join forces with Samsung SmartThings to drive the future of IoT, combining Itron’s unequaled track record of success in delivering utility outcomes with SmartThings’ expertise in consumer engagement, Combining two industry leading platforms is a game changer for energy management. This collaboration will significantly accelerate consumers’ understanding of their energy use, combining information from smart energy devices such as Samsung appliances, electric vehicles, solar panels, heat pumps, thermostats and more. Our goal is to enable consumers to optimize their use of green, renewable energy and reduce their carbon footprint.” -Don Reeves, senior vice president of Outcomes at Itron. With this collaboration, we are enabling consumers to make smarter decisions about their energy use. Integrating Itron’s IIoT solution with the SmartThings Energy application will not only make it easier for utilities to inform their customers on their energy consumption, it will also make it easier for consumers to take advantage of energy savings opportunities in their smart appliances,” said Chanwoo Park, EVP & Head of IoT Biz Group, Samsung Electronics. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Itron as this not only conserves energy but also aligns with our customers’ goals of achieving net-zero carbon households. About Itron Itron enables utilities and cities to safely, securely and reliably deliver critical infrastructure solutions to communities in more than 100 countries. Our portfolio of smart networks, software, services, meters and sensors helps our customers better manage electricity, gas and water resources for the people they serve. By working with our customers to ensure their success, we help improve the quality of life, ensure the safety and promote the well-being of millions of people around the globe. Itron is dedicated to creating a more resourceful world. Join us: www.itron.com.Itron® is a registered trademark of Itron, Inc. All third-party trademarks are property of their respective owners and any usage herein does not suggest or imply any relationship between Itron and the third party unless expressly stated. About SmartThings SmartThings is the premier technology enabling connected living and driving the future of IoT. Its open platform already supports thousands of devices across hundreds of brands and offers endless possibilities to innovators and developers seeking seamless connectivity in a vast IoT ecosystem. The company is committed to bringing simple, smart functionality to provide unifying experiences that inspire people to make a difference in their everyday lives. There are currently millions of people in more than 200 countries accessing SmartThings technology daily to create automations and control facets of their smart homes via the SmartThings App and through a range of Samsung products such as phones, TVs, and digital appliances. SmartThings offers the most flexible amount of protocols, including the new IoT standard, Matter. Launched in 2012, SmartThings is headquartered in Mountain View, CA and is a founding board member of Connectivity Standards Alliance, an organization of hundreds of companies creating, maintaining, and delivering open, global standards for the IoT. For more information, please visit www.smartthings.com.

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SUSTAINABILITY,ENERGY

Sunnova Expands Energy as a Service Offerings to Commercial Businesses

Sunnova Energy | September 23, 2022

Sunnova Energy International Inc. ("Sunnova") (NYSE: NOVA), a leading U.S. Energy as a Service (EaaS) provider, announced that it is expanding its energy service offerings to the commercial solar market.Leveraging the Company’s extensive experience in residential solar, Sunnova is expanding into the commercial market to serve the commercial, industrial, agricultural, commercial real estate, non-profit, and public sectors to help business customers become more sustainable and resilient while also providing budget certainty in the face of rising utility rates. Entry into the commercial sector is supported by the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to increase deployment of commercial solar projects by 20% over the next five years, according to the SEIA/Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables U.S. Solar Market Insight report. With the expansion of Sunnova’s energy services into the underserved commercial market, businesses will be able to take control of their energy costs by transitioning to solar, gaining resilient backup power, and tapping into available revenue streams such as selling excess solar energy back to the grid or participating in local grid services. “Electricity usage can be one of the biggest and most unpredictable costs facing businesses, and unexpectedly losing power due to a utility outage can create additional expense and hardship,We see a significant growth opportunity in the commercial solar market that is a natural extension of our market-leading services on the residential side. We look forward to providing businesses with solutions that will reduce their energy costs and provide local energy generation, as well as insights and control. Our systems offer protection against utility power outages with integrated battery storage, and the ability to reduce carbon emissions. We have helped hundreds of thousands of homeowners across the country realize the benefits of solar and now we will be helping companies adapt to an ever-changing energy landscape by transforming into Sunnova Adaptive Businesses™.” -William J. (John) Berger, founder and CEO at Sunnova. With a total addressable market of approximately 145GW that is only 5% penetrated, according to Wood Mackenzie, Sunnova will be leveraging its network of dealers who have wanted to sell commercial solar, or who already do, to facilitate a rapid market entry. We are excited to enter this underserved sector of the market to help businesses manage their energy needs with a differentiated and innovative approach,” said Michael Grasso, EVP, Chief Marketing and Growth Officer at Sunnova. “Sunnova will offer businesses a complete suite of energy technologies, finance options, and services tailored to meet their specific energy needs, business goals, and local utility rate structures. This expansion of our service offerings will allow us to do for business customers what we have done for residential customers—provide a better energy service at a better price through our new adaptive business technology solutions and 25-year service guarantee, the Sunnova Protect® Business plan. Sunnova will also provide flexible financing options for systems starting at 50kW that are catered to the preferences and tax status of each business. About Sunnova Sunnova Energy International Inc. (NYSE: NOVA) is leading U.S. Energy as a Service (EaaS) provider with customers across the U.S. and its territories. Sunnova's goal is to be the source of clean, affordable and reliable energy with a simple mission: to power energy independence so that homeowners have the freedom to live life uninterrupted®. For more information, please visit sunnova.com

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