Navigant Research Blog

Electricity Landscape: Expanding Demand

— January 30, 2018

On January 16, 2018, I attended the US launch of the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2017 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, presented findings from the WEO and highlighted four megatrends in the global energy system:

  • Rapid deployment and falling costs of clean energy technologies
  • Growth in electrification of energy
  • China’s shift to a more services-based economy and a clean energy mix
  • The US’s position as the biggest oil & gas producer globally

Taking these megatrends into account, as well as projections on where existing policies and announced intentions may lead the energy systems, WEO’s New Policies Scenario expects global energy needs to increase by 30% between 2018 and 2040. This growth is mainly driven by India, whose share of global energy use is expected to rise to 11% by 2040. Southeast Asia also contributes immensely to overall growing demand. Developing countries in Asia Pacific are expected to account for two-thirds of global energy growth.

Growing Demand for Electricity

With a rising standard of living in many developing countries, more people will want to buy appliances and electronic devices powered by electricity. Innovative transportation technologies are gaining momentum and are projected to increase electricity demand as well. For example, China will need to add the equivalent of today’s US power system to its infrastructure by 2040 to meet rising electricity demand; India needs to add a power system the size of the current European Union. In fact, global investment in electricity overtook that of oil & gas for the first time in 2016. Dr. Birol emphasized the importance of China and India’s future energy decisions. Their decisions will play a huge role in determining global trends due to the scale of investment and deployment.

WEO Electricity Demand Projections to 2040

(Source: International Energy Agency)

Heating and Cooling Demand Ramping Up

The growing demand for heating and cooling is among various drivers for electrification of energy. In particular, consumers in warmer regions will increasingly install cooling systems. There is great potential for energy savings with energy efficient HVAC products, but that market remains largely untapped at present. According to the recent Navigant Research report, Market Data: Energy Efficient Buildings – Asia Pacific, the energy efficient HVAC market in Asia Pacific is expected to reach $25.6 billion in 2026. Specifically, China’s market is expected to grow at a 10.5% CAGR between 2017 and 2026; and 11.4% in India. Today, heating and cooling in buildings account for approximately 40% of energy consumption.

In addition to demand for heating and cooling, the EV market is expected to grow rapidly. EVs can lead to a major low-carbon pathway for the transportation sector. Notably, Europe and China are aggressively promoting EV deployments. Navigant Research projects global plug-in EV sales to reach 8.3 million by 2026.

Increasing Electricity Demands

Overall, end-use electrification is expanding. The IEA expects the share of electricity in final energy demand to increase from 18% today to 26% in by 2060. So, what does the growing electrification of energy mean? Electrification creates environmental benefits by shifting many end uses of electricity away from fossil fuel sources. It also creates opportunities for boosting energy efficiency.

While there are still many challenges to overcome, such as enforcing energy efficiency regulations and developing EV infrastructure, the electrification of large sectors of the economy holds great growth potential. This growth will be driven by rapidly evolving technologies, emerging innovative business models, and shifting regulatory environment. Together, these are referred to as the Energy Cloud, disrupting the traditional electricity landscape. To learn more about how industry stakeholders can prepare and manage their organization to maneuver through the Energy Cloud disruption and position themselves for long-term success, see Navigant Research’s white paper, Navigating the Energy Transformation.


CES 2018: The Year of Behind-the-Scenes Innovation

— January 23, 2018

A year ago at CES, the event belonged to Amazon’s Alexa, with vendors touting Alexa integrations and displaying Echo devices prominently at their respective booths. At CES 2018, however, a single showstopper failed to materialize—unless one includes the power outage at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which was the biggest surprise (and I was there). In lieu of one standout product, I noted several key trends, including the ever-popular artificial intelligence (AI), a growing number of home healthcare offerings, an aggressive push from Google, and an expanding presence of French startups.

Everybody Is Doing AI

This year, much of the innovation is taking place in the backend software of smart products: the AI world. Nearly every company I spoke with flaunted the use of deep learning and AI. While the term AI was used loosely to describe algorithms and machine learning, this behind-the-scenes technology is progressing, which enables more advanced functionality for smart products. There are new and better algorithms, such as those used in Philips’ Hue Sync, which enables multiple connected lights to respond in sync to movies, video games, and music in real time. Advancements in machine learning are enabling digital assistants to recognize the voices of individual people and understand conversational context.

Home Healthcare Edges its Way into the Spotlight

Home healthcare continues to edge its way into more connected products, and this was underscored as I made my way around the crowded show floors. Offerings varied from elderly care solutions, to products for promoting better sleep, to services for people to better connect with their doctors. While propositions such as security, energy, and convenience are largely driving smart home adoption, healthcare solutions can provide enhanced value on a more personal or familial level. Health-focused products can help users better track their own health or the health of loved ones, and can help prevent unexpected illnesses and diseases.

Google Starts Taking CES and the Smart Home Seriously

Google’s presence was everywhere at CES 2018. The search giant’s messaging took over the Monorail, the Aria hotel’s display featured “Hey, Google” ads, and a giant Google gumball-style machine dispensed Homes and Minis to lucky CES attendees. Amazon took a lighter approach by booking ballrooms dedicated to business meetings with various Amazon business groups, including Alexa. This increased presence not only shows that these two companies are taking their engagement in the smart home market more seriously, but it also highlights the absence of Apple. Apple is being left behind in the smart home space, especially with the delay of its HomePod speaker and a continuous lack of traction with HomeKit.

The French Are Innovating

France’s efforts to become the startup capital of Europe were made obvious at CES by the sheer number of French startups present during CES 2018. From companies demonstrating software for making bathroom mirrors smart to Li-Fi-based IoT platform providers, the French are innovating and becoming a hotbed of opportunity for stakeholders across smart industries.

A World in Transition

Though CES 2018 did not have one major theme like that of past shows, the trends I observed fell in line with the progression of digitization that Navigant Research is seeing. Companies are transitioning from deploying hardware devices to enhancing their existing solutions through data and backend software. Large tech incumbents are recognizing the power of the smart home and investing heavily. New value propositions for this tech are emerging and providing more convincing use cases for consumers; new markets are growing from this opportunity. To learn more about these trends, see Navigant Research’s white paper on IoT and the Future of Networked Energy.


Postcard from Hawaii to Nation’s Capital

— June 29, 2017

The mood at the second annual VERGE conference in Honolulu, Hawaii last week was upbeat about the future of clean energy, despite pushback on the US mainland. Apparently, those committed to a clean energy agenda, including the private sector, are more motivated than ever to push forward with aggressive programs to bring renewables resources online. They aim to not only combat climate change, but also create jobs.

Conference attendees clearly supported the supposition that clean energy is here to stay, no matter what might be unfolding in Washington, DC. The proposed dismantling of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and recent withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change only seemed to serve as motivation to push forward even harder.

Hawaii’s Renewable Energy Vision

Hawaii is the first (and so far) only state in the United States to commit to a 100% renewable energy future. Governor David Ige of Hawaii didn’t seem to blink in the face of counter currents flowing from the Trump administration. A confessed energy geek, he seemed to take particular delight in the fact that Hawaii has emerged as a key testing ground for bolstering commitments to infrastructure needed to integrate variable renewables for both power and transportation services. Since each island of Hawaii is its own separate electric grid control area and retail costs are high due to such a reliance upon imported sources of fossil fuel, Hawaii is in a unique spot. The economics in the state clearly favor renewable energy.

Industry Momentum Is for Renewables

Even Connie Lau, CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries, reported that her investor-owned utilities brethren have all bought into the clean energy agenda. If the administrative about-face on clean energy had occurred 8 years ago, then the momentum for renewables and other clean energy may have been halted, but that time has passed. Past government and industry investments have driven down the price of solar PV, wind, and batteries while software innovation to manage such resources has scaled up.

Nevertheless, there are challenges in implementing aggressive clean energy goals. Just look at California, where the state is paying neighboring states to take excess solar production. Many models show that once one reaches 80%-90% renewables penetration, the cost of integration can jump dramatically.

One of the key tools Hawaii will rely upon to reach its 100% renewable energy goal is to integrate devices like energy storage into self-balancing distribution networks such as microgrids. As of now, over 90 MW of new energy storage devices has been authorized by state regulators to be installed among the Hawaiian islands, with the majority of that capacity—70 MW—to be installed in Oahu.

Continuing Conversation

I had the pleasure of helping to run a 4-hour workshop on how to overcome challenges to developing a microgrid at VERGE with cutting edge microgrid market makers such as ENGIE and Spirae. I also moderated a session on how microgrids boost clean energy on islands, with featured speakers from ABB—which is pushing forward with a 134 MW microgrid designed to reach 50% renewable energy on the island of Aruba by 2020—and representatives from Hawaii and the US Navy.

Ironically, there may still be some room for collaboration between Hawaii and Washington, DC in the clean energy space. As I noted in a previous in a previous blog, one area where the interests in promoting national security in DC and a clean energy agenda in Hawaii align is the microgrid space. Watch for a report on that topic later this year.


Cities Taking Steps to Charge Up EV Sales

— June 9, 2017

Urban areas with air quality concerns are promoting the use of plug-in EVs (PEVs) as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By investing in EV charging infrastructure, cities such as New York City, Seattle, and Boulder are hoping to allay residents’ fears of not having a place to recharge their vehicles.

New York City is emphasizing fully emissions-free driving by installing charging stations that get their energy from the sun. The city recently ordered more than 30 solar-powered charging stations from Envision Solar, the manufacturer of EV ARC units that fit within the footprint of a typical parking spot. The parking-constrained city is ordering the charging stations to provide power to New York City’s fleet of PEVs, which will likely grow by 1,000 vehicles in 2017.

Seattle to Add Light and Charge

The city of Seattle is leveraging its street light infrastructure for expanding EV charging. The city will install 100 of BMW’s innovative Light and Charge systems, which tap into the power of street lights. The Light and Charge system is part of BMW’s ReachNow mobility service that was initially piloted in Munich and is being brought to the United States for the first time.

The system will include both direct current (DC) fast chargers and Level 2 charging and will be placed at up to 20 locations, including the Woodland Park Zoo, where the first Light and Charge systems are now up and running. The smart street lighting Light and Charge technology also includes upgrades to more energy efficient LED lights, as well as sensors for monitoring the environment and a connection to the cloud for sharing data.

Big Charge in a Little City

The much smaller city of Boulder, Colorado is more than doubling its EV charging station capacity to 46 units in 2017. The city is using a $100,000 grant from the Regional Air Quality Council to upgrade its existing charging stations at recreational centers and other locations, as well as to add new stations.

Boulder is awash in Nissan LEAFs thanks to the progressive actions at the Boulder Nissan dealership, which is one of Nissan’s largest sellers of PEVs despite the city’s smaller population (about 100,000). The city is helping to educate residents about the economics and operational benefits of owning a PEV through the EnergySmart program. The unique EV advising service provides an advisor to talk residents through understanding the ins and outs of tax rebates, accessing charging infrastructure, and integrating EVs with home solar charging.

PEVs Charging Ahead

As seen in the chart generated by Navigant Research’s new Electric Vehicle Forecasts data service, the efforts that these cities are taking today will pay off in coming years and contribute to greater sales of PEVs. Annual sales of PEVs in Boulder, New York City, and Seattle are expected to grow by more than 800% to nearly 148,000 units between 2016 and 2025, according to Navigant Research.

Total Sales by Powertrain, Scenario, and Year: 2016-2025

(Source: Navigant Research)

Speakers from all three of these cities (myself included) will be discussing EVs and urban mobility solutions at the upcoming EVRoadmap Conference in Portland, Oregon. The annual event, which will be held June 19-21, has become the most important EV conference in the United States. EVRoadmap will feature speakers from across the globe and program tracks on cars, charging, and community.


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