In the words of novelist William Gibson, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” Over the course of 2017, this saying has started to reverberate around the world of Energy & Transport. Amidst the incessant gloom of bad news, fake news and inconsequential news, an unstoppable, positive force is accelerating.
While there is a distance yet to run, is it possible that the hard yards are behind us? 2017 milestones 1 include:
- 8th successive year in which global clean energy investment has been $250-$350 billion.
- Another record year for increased renewable capacity (likely to exceed 2016 figure of $287.5 billion).
- Substantial cost reductions in the cost of renewable energy, especially wind, solar and batteries.
- Latest record-low auction for solar photovoltaic at $20.77 per MWh.
- Latest record-low auction for onshore wind of $18.60 per MWh.
- Battery prices have fallen by a remarkable 24% in 1 year (at an average of $207 per kWH)
- New $1+ billion markets emerging including Mexico, UAE, Argentina and Egypt.
- Biggest wind farm repowering ever (350MW project in the Netherlands).
- Most solar capacity ever installed in one country in a year (50GW+ in China).
- Global Electric Vehicle sales to surpass 1 million for the first time (leapt up from 700,000).
- Various announcements of planned bans on pure internal combustion engines.
- Future projections for the global market share of batteries, EVs, solar and wind by 2040 all up.
Clean energy is the World’s trump card
And all of the above in spite of the spiteful. The world was aghast when the self-styled ‘most powerful’ nation on earth did a 180° turn on its commitment to the Paris Agreement, but the truth is, this has had an extraordinarily galvanising effect on the rest of the world. Syria and Nicaragua signed up to the same agreement, leaving the US isolated; other countries - especially China – significantly upped the ante; and awareness of air pollution and climate change received an enormous, unexpected shot in the arm.
Would any of this have happened had the US subtly weakened its path towards clean energy, rather than shamelessly try to positively spin its self-serving relationship with fossil fuels? What’s more, when Trump’s terrible ‘reign of ire’ comes to its inevitable end in 2018, 2021 or 2025, the US will surely overcompensate in its efforts to return to the summit of climate leadership. Whether it will succeed, especially given China’s immense investment in future technologies, looks less than certain.
What’s more, while it is clearer than ever that clean technologies are critical to tackling air pollution and climate change, the benefits of their deployment go far, far beyond that. The possibility of generating our own energy is empowering on many levels. Above all it breaks down the old order of monolithic multi-nationals that have disproportionately dominated energy and transport for decades and opens up a wealth of opportunities to those
who have not been afforded them, not least in the developing world.
Thought-leaders, Teslas and Trailblazers
It says it all, that it is almost impossible to speak at length on this subject without mentioning Elon Musk. There are many thought-leaders in this sector, but Tesla remains at the tip of the spear. There are those that delight in finding fault with Elon Musk’s statements and his inclination for overstatement make him an easy target, but even the most begrudging curmudgeon would surely struggle to describe his long list of achievements as anything short of stellar. In simple terms, without Tesla’s tail-lights ahead of them, particularly in relation to batteries and electric vehicles, would the energy and transport incumbents have been half as motivated?
But he isn’t the only thought-leader. There are thousands of different shapes and sizes that are driving energy and transport forwards to the future. Most obviously, Carlos Ghosn, who has had a transformative effect on Renault and Nissan and to achieve that he has had to challenge the conservative constraints of two gigantic, global manufacturers. Another thought-leader is the author Tony Seba 2, whose ‘Clean Disruption of Energy & Transportation’ is increasingly being recognised as required reading if you want to understand that the speed of this ‘power shift’ is likely to be far faster than some would like you to believe.
Then there are the thousands, maybe millions - certainly too many to mention - of trailblazers that are following in these thought-leaders footsteps. It is the tireless efforts of trailblazing companies and individuals that will be the motors of change. After 15 years in this space - almost all of which has been banging the drum for clean energy - I am fortunate to find myself playing a small part with two trailblazers (Ceres Power 3 & Fully Charged 4) and I am as motivated as ever to help take these technologies from the margins to the mainstream.
With countless threats on the horizon, there are reasons, of course, to be concerned about where the world is headed, but when it comes to the things we can control, the future of Energy & Transport is within our grasp.
For more on the Future of Energy & Transport, follow Dan at www.twitter.com/FullyChargedDan
1 From ‘Long-Term Clean Energy Optimism, Short-Term Caution’ by Michael Liebreich & Angus McCrone, Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
2 ’Clean Disruption of Energy & Transportation’ by Tony Seba, Author.
3 Ceres Power is a cutting-edge clean tech developer that is working to embed its technology in the power products of world-class manufacturers like Cummins, Honda & Nissan. Our SteelCell® technology generates cheaper, cleaner, dependable power from a number of different fuels including natural gas now, biogas, hydrogen and synthetic gas and can be applied across data centers & electric vehicles.
4 Robert Llewellyn’s Fully Charged Show is a YouTube channel on ‘the Future of Energy & Transport’. After 7 years, the show has amassed a huge, highly engaged audience numbering into the hundreds of thousands, subscriber numbers alone have increased by 1000% and growth is accelerating. In the summer, the first Fully Charged LIVE, takes place at Silverstone on 9th & 10th June.