The Intersolar North America team is watching the evolution of the solar, energy storage, and e-mobility industries closely in order to develop a compelling, relevant, and actionable conference experience. In preparation for #isna2020, we took a look at the top trends shaping each of these markets, including policy implications, pricing patterns, emerging technologies, and more.
Analysts predict that the global solar market will surpass 100 gigawatts (GW) in 2019. 2.7 GW of solar was installed in the first quarter, making it the quarter with the most solar ever installed in US history. Recent growth is driven in part by the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which is scheduled to decrease at the end of 2019 and is motivating companies to close deals prior to the deadline.
Corporate procurement and renewable energy commitments from companies like Google and Apple also continue to surprise market analysts as a major market growth driver in 2019. Corporate procurements made up nearly 25% of 2018’s projects and are expected to make up 17% of projects in 2019.
In the past decade, US solar has grown from 25 GW to an estimated 663 GW by the end of 2019. According to BloombergNEF, that’s enough to power nearly 100 million homes in the US.
With carbon-based electric generation contributing approximately 30% to the US’s total greenhouse gas emissions, there’s a major opportunity to decarbonize the energy sector with renewables. In the 2020s, state, municipal, and corporate procurement will continue to drive market expansion as more cities announce renewable energy goals and the cost of solar continues to drop.
- In Q1 2019, the industry installed the most solar ever in a quarter in US history.
- Investments in solar are increasing as many race to close deals before the ITC begins to step down at the end of 2019.
- State, municipal, and corporate procurements will continue to drive market growth for the next decade as they continue to announce renewable energy targets.
In Q1 of 2019, the market achieved a record-breaking 232% growth. Part of that growth can be attributed to a surge in residential storage in 2018, with deployments quadrupling year-after-year due to the increase in state-level incentive programs for solar-plus-storage projects. Despite recent residential market growth, utility-supply storage continues to stand as the largest market segment. According to SEPA, investor-owned utilities deployed the most storage of any utility type, contributing approximately 64% of megawatt hours interconnected to the grid last year.
Emerging Battery Technologies
While lithium-ion continues to prevail as the leading battery technology (especially for electric vehicle [EV] applications), other alternative technologies continue to diversify the sector. Variations of lithium-ion (like lithium-sulfur) and innovative technologies (such as zinc-related batteries and gravity storage) are becoming more popular and—in some applications—more cost effective than traditional battery technologies.
In the next five years, experts forecast the energy storage industry will grow tenfold—becoming a $5.1 billion market. They expect that this new market expansion will be spurred by a continued decline in technology costs and an increase in state and local sustainability mandates and incentive programs.
- All-time-low technology costs were the main growth driver for the energy storage market in 2019.
- Alternative storage technologies like lithium-sulfur, zinc-based batteries, and gravity storage are becoming cost-effective alternatives to lithium-ion in some applications.
- State and local incentives will continue to drive energy storage expansion in the years ahead.
The growth of the electric vehicle (EV) industry has quickly accelerated since its start just over 10 years ago. Last year, global EV sales reached more than 5.1 million vehicles while the US reached more than 360,000 total vehicles––increasing 81% from 2017. The growth in sales is largely due to automakers expanding their electric model lines in addition to falling battery prices that increase the affordability of EVs for modern consumers. Reports show that lithium-ion battery prices have decreased an estimated 80% since 2010, considerably reducing the price point of EVs.
The 2019 EV market goes beyond personal vehicles to include fleets, buses, and even ridesharing vehicles. There is a wide variety of stakeholders contributing to the growing number of zero emissions vehicles, including:
- Large corporations like UPS and Amazon, which are leveraging EVs to electrify their fleets of delivery vans
- Ridesharing companies like Lyft, which are incentivizing drivers who own electric vehicles
- Cities that are introducing electric buses to their public transportation systems—a market that experts predict to triple by 2025
With the number of EVs on the road increasing, it is critical to build EV charging infrastructure that supports the expanding EV market. To smoothly transition to our electrified mobility future, many cities are investing in e-mobility infrastructure to cut emissions from transportation and help meet sustainability goals. For example, the New York Power Authority has invested $250 million in an initiative to deploy DC fast chargers in key areas to support local EV drivers.
To build a robust charging network, drivers will soon rely on ultra-fast charging methods; as a result, utilities and power providers will look for solutions to support the growing demand for power without overwhelming the electric grid.
- Decreasing battery costs are reducing the price of EVs and boosting sales in the US.
- Leading corporations electrified their fleets in 2019 and are expected to continue driving that trend next year.
- Industry conversations point to a growing need for a robust charging network to support the number of EVs on roads.