The energy word for 2022 is TRANSITION. Yes, the transition to a cleaner system and probably a higher degree of consumer interface is expected, but there are a few less obvious possibilities to consider, too.
The wish: More electric vehicle chargers. EVs may be the most visible energy transition. Just watch the ads on TV, more EVs coming out all the time. There were 26 battery-operated models available early in 2021, and 11 more are due in 2022.
Getting them on the road rests on a build-out of charging networks. There are now about 43,000 public EV charging stations and around 120,000 charging ports. These are not spread uniformly across the nation.
Charger networks must grow. The roughly one million EVs in 2018 balloons to almost 19 million in 2030. Some local laws must change that prevent gasoline stations from selling electricity for more than they pay (as they do with gasoline), more people need to install home chargers for overnight “fill-ups,” and nontraditional fuel locations are needed – apartment buildings, office complexes and retail hubs among them. (Numbers source)
The wish: More renewables. This is in the cards. Huge amounts of solar, wind, and now battery storage are expected.
Remember when everyone craved for renewables? Not so much anymore. Renewable growth is no straight path. Public opposition to these once highly desired energy sources is more common all the time.
Solar may be the most interesting renewable in 2022 because of new siting methods. Remember when solar was rooftop only? Then utilities built large solar fields, which is good because they know how to operate them. Large-scale will keep growing, see the Energy Information Agency projection, above. Look for something in between – community solar – as neighborhoods or cities get into the act and get that power generation close to home and with more public buy-in to use that power.
The wish: Ample power. No one likes a shortage of energy. Renewables can provide a lot of energy, and even cover vast geographies, at least for a awhile. For instance, in the depths of the pandemic in 2020 the UK had a 67+ day coal-free streak, in good measure because of renewable investments. “A fantastic achievement considering just 10 years ago, 40% of the country’s electricity came from coal. …the UK no longer requires fossil fuels to be the backbone of the grid.” (Source)
For best results, renewables need to match up to batteries to save the power for when it is most needed. Global storage capacity is forecast to expand by 56% by 2026. The main driver is the increasing need for system flexibility, to integrate larger shares of variable renewable energy [like wind and solar] into power systems when power is needed most. (Source)
“When a power system combines energy storage and solar power generation, the end result is greater than the sum of its parts in terms of the system’s ability to handle peak energy demand,” says research by NC State and NC Central Universities, image above.
The wish: Fast-track advanced nuclear. This loops back to ample power. It is also reliable power.
“The future won’t be decided by choosing between nuclear or solar [or wind] power. Rather, it’s a technically and economically complicated balance of adding as much renewable energy as possible while ensuring a steady supply of electricity,” said TIME magazine.
Nuclear will fill the gap when wind or solar production are zero. “The need for ‘firm’ generation becomes more crucial.” One power executive said, “You cannot run our grid solely on the basis of renewable supply.”
Think of the 2060’s, not the 1960’s. It’s time to move on from last century’s stigma about nuclear. Young, smart entrepreneurs are advancing nuclear science and they ought to get support. It is their world they are creating and it will help all of us.
The wish: New electric transmission. How we make energy has been a hot item for years to the detriment of the less sexy part of the business – transmission and distribution of power.
Yet new power lines and gas pipelines are being opposed. For some, it is a Not In My Backyard issue. For others, it is an environmental issue – what the power facility will do to the land. Either way, if we do not improve the grid and our pipes we will not have the ability to deliver the amount and kind of energy we need in the future.
Industry is ready to go. “US utility Capex is expected to remain on the upswing, with investments in upgrading and modernizing the country’s aging energy and water infrastructure reaching $63 billion and utility renewables spending surpassing $14 billion in 2022,” says an S&P Global report. That’s half the battle, people.
The wish: Policymakers legislate, not look for headlines. Legislators and regulators have a genuine public safety and security and financial duty in their energy work. Yet some see energy issues as part of their campaign.
Happily, some old party boundaries crumbled in North Carolina to actually pass an energy bill. Wasn’t easy or pretty, but they got there. In South Carolina, there is work to do. Some policymakers are enamored with the idea of a regional transmission organization as a political trope versus a pragmatic energy need. Pssst, South Carolina, no need to muck up a working energy system. Your energy problems have been from your implementation of laws, not the energy system.
Teamwork in the halls of capitols is essential. With the pandemic on the downside, or at least better understood, energy will boom again. The Economist magazine says, “Global energy consumption will rise by 2.2% in 2022 as economies recover from the impact of the pandemic. All types of energy, apart from nuclear power, will benefit.”
Increased energy use is a double-edged sword, though. “While continuing to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses will also need to accelerate efforts to cut emissions,” says The Economist report, left.
The big word is TRANSITION, for all of us – citizens, policymakers, regulators, and business.