Navigant Research Blog

Sunny Outlook for Multifamily Housing Energy Advances

— February 10, 2015

In January, the Obama administration announced a new partnership with the state of California to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in the multifamily housing market. As part of this new agenda, President Obama established a target of 100 MW of renewable energy across federally subsidized housing by 2020. The program aims to deliver both climate change and economic benefits, estimating that improving energy efficiency in the country’s subsidized multifamily homes by 20% would deliver a $7 billion annual savings and a reduction of 350 million tons of carbon in 10 years.

Accelerating PACE

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing will have a big role to play in achieving the goals of the White House and the state of California. PACE programs enable customers to finance up to 100% of an energy efficiency or renewable project and repay the debt as a property tax assessment over a period of up to 20 years. These programs are locally defined by city or state legislation.

The off-balance sheet financing model hit a major roadblock in 2010 when the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) put residential PACE programs on hold over a battle initiated by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae over the first lien status of the energy efficiency debts of a PACE-funded project. The FHFA argued the PACE debts put a heightened risk of default on home mortgages and that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should not back mortgages on properties with PACE debt.

Four years later, FHFA has not formally changed its stance, but PACE programs are once again funding residential projects. The government of California was so certain the program did not add default risk that the state legislature passed SB 96 in 2013. SB 96 established the PACE Loss Reserve Program and ultimately rejuvenated programs throughout the state. California is not alone in the local drive for PACE financing. In fact, according to PACENow, the non-profit advocate for PACE financing, there are over 25,000 PACE projects underway across the United States, and 18% are supporting improvements in the multifamily housing segment.

 

(Source: PACENow)

Going West

The opportunity for energy management in the multifamily market is opening the door to growing business in the private sector, as well. For example, Bright Power, a company specializing in comprehensive energy management solutions for multifamily housing, including energy audits and benchmarking, energy efficiency upgrades, and solar, announced a $5 million round of financing that will help support the company’s entry into the California market. The overall buildings market is ripe for the adoption of renewable energy and investment in energy efficiency, and innovative financing models are helping customers overcome the upfront capital challenge. An upcoming Navigant Research report will examine the evolving market for energy efficiency financing as a part of Navigant Research’s Building Innovations syndicated research service.

 

2015: A Turning Point for Batteries

— January 30, 2015

One of the biggest energy stories of 2014 was the emergence of battery-based energy storage as a reasonable option for grid management.  But the battery industry is just getting started.  This year, the energy news cycle will be led by batteries on all fronts.  This year will mark the tipping point that sees batteries become not only an accepted part of our electricity grid and transportation network, but also a key underpinning to the global economy.

Beneath these developments is a single realization that the world is beginning to accept: that high-quality advanced batteries are becoming very cheap.  As Navigant Research’s Materials for Advanced Batteries report explains, a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery that was priced at more than $1,000 per kWh in 2009 can now be bought for a third of that.  And there is no visible end to the reductions in pricing.  This price decline is caused by three factors:

Manufacturing scale: The world’s battery factories are capable producing some 100 GWh worth of Li-ion cells this year.  While not that much will actually be made (Navigant Research expects that 2015 will see some 65 GWh of Li-ion batteries produced), the manufacturing scale is now in place to enable the enormous growth of the use of batteries that is to be expected as pricing comes down.  And the capacity is only growing with time.  When Tesla Motors and Panasonic build their GigaFactory in Nevada in 2017, global manufacturing capacity will be increased by 50%.

Manufacturing expertise: It’s been 24 years since Sony introduced the first mass-produced Li-ion battery.  It’s taken that long for manufacturers to make these products at high efficiencies and high speeds.  A typical production line can now crank out 4 times the batteries that the same machines were able to produce just 5 years ago in the same amount of time.

Supply chain maturity: The chemicals that go into Li-ion batteries used to be specialty, batch-processed chemicals.  Now that the industry is so large, they have been converted into continuously processed commodity chemicals.  This means cheaper input materials, which in turn translates into cheaper batteries.

Golden Age

Now that these three factors have conspired to result in an environment of cheaper Li-ion batteries, the industries that use those batteries will see dramatically increased demand.  Here are some key events expected in early 2015 that will help usher in this golden year for batteries:

New automotive launches: Three cars will be unveiled in early 2015 that have the potential to be enormous sales leaders.  The 2016 Chevy Volt might make the Volt become a reasonable alternative to other low-priced compacts, even in this age of cheap gas.  The Model X, Tesla’s version of a high-end crossover, has the potential to be even more popular than the launch of the Model S in 2013.  And the BMW 5-series electric vehicle (EV) could hit the sweet spot of a mid-size luxury EV.  Even if only two of these three models turns into a global success, it will mean dramatically higher EV sales in 2015.

The great California grid rush: Each of the major California utilities has now issued requests for proposals for grid energy storage systems.  Combined with the final announcement of the winners of the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) bid in Hawaii sometime this spring, these programs will see the most extensive purchases of grid storage systems in history.

Additionally, new products in the e-bike, e-scooter, and portable appliance markets will see dramatic growth in the thirst for batteries in those markets as well.  All told, 2015 is shaping up to be a historic year for the battery industry and for the industries that buy batteries to make their products popular.

 

How Technology Partnerships Will Shape the Future of Building Innovation

— January 20, 2015

The last 5 years have been monumental for the smart buildings industry.  Major building automation vendors have repositioned themselves as tech companies, a flurry of startups have entered the market, and building owners have become increasingly aware of the business value of integrating energy and operations management technologies.  Navigant Research expects to see a shift from the rash of acquisitions that dominated the smart buildings news a few years ago to partnerships shaping the market’s near future.  Companies are coming together to help customers overcome the challenges of enterprise awareness and integration and to make energy service offerings even smarter.

Enterprise Awareness

Even as the economy improves, many customers resist investing in energy efficiency.  The upfront capital costs of systems integration and equipment upgrades can be a daunting proposition for building owners and managers still learning the business value of intelligent energy and operational management.  Yet, a growing number of startups are finding new ways to bring cost-effective solutions to market that will help deepen the market penetration of smart building technologies.

In August, for example, Panoramic Power and Lucid announced a partnership to help customers capitalize on enterprise efficiencies through wireless energy monitoring and analytics.  Panoramic Power’s self-powered micro-sensors and Lucid’s BuildingOS software help customers aggregate building data and generate useful data across diverse systems and facilities.  In October, GridPoint and MicroStrategy announced a new partnership to enhance the software platform and visualization capabilities of GridPoint Energy Manager for cost-effective insight across light commercial building portfolios.  These two examples epitomize the partnering activity in the market that’s helping customers realize the benefits of smart building technologies at lower costs.

Enhanced Energy Services

Energy and engineering service companies are also seeing the benefits of partnering to bring smart building technologies to their customers.  AtSite is now enhancing its smart building professional services with the BuildingIQ Predictive Energy Optimization software.  The collaboration converges cloud-based software analytics with engineering expertise to elevate the service offerings to their customers.  ForceField Energy has partnered with Noveda to enhance its energy service company (ESCO) offerings with the IntelliNET Luminaire Management System (LMS) offering.  These partnerships illustrate how smart building technologies can generate new efficiencies and insights for professional service providers and differentiate offerings to customers who increasingly demand data-driven decision support.

Navigant Research will continue to track how new partnership models unfold in 2015 and whether these companies can successfully utilize their individual core competencies to deepen market penetration and expand the market for smart building technologies.

 

In Review: Energy Metatrends

— January 14, 2015

In Navigant Research’s 2013 white paper, Smart Energy: Five Metatrends to Watch in 2013 and Beyond, we discussed key shifts in the energy landscape.  In this post, I’ll review those trends and discuss which have come to pass and which have yet to materialize or have fizzled out.

The white paper covered the following metatrends:

  • Energy is becoming increasingly democratized
  • The role of government innovation funds is changing
  • Technologies are converging
  • The Southern African Power Pool is becoming the new BRIC
  • The role of utilities is changing

Energy Democratization

Distributed generation (DG), which lies at the heart of the energy democratization shift, has gained significant traction in recent years.  The growth of DG – spurred in part by greater consumer awareness, cost reductions for technologies like solar PV, and improved financing models, among other things – is one of the most dynamic factors driving the evolution of the traditional utility business model.  In Navigant Research’s report, Global Distributed Generation Deployment Forecast, we state that between 2014 and 2023, DG is expected to displace the need for at least 321 GW of new large-scale power plants, valued at more than $1 trillion in power plant construction revenue.  Annual DG capacity additions are expected to outpace centralized generation capacity additions by 2018, underscoring the importance of this metatrend going forward.

Government Innovation Funds

The white paper argued that quasi-governmental funds would step in to fill the void left by private equity and venture capital exiting the energy sector.  The role of government funds would expand to drive innovative technologies from R&D to commercialization.  While this has proven to be partly true, significant capital has exited the energy space, leaving many fledgling companies (and technologies) exposed to market realities.  Spectacular flameouts have rocked the cleantech financing landscape.  That said, governments remain key sources of funding across the innovation lifecycle, so the jury is still out with respect to this metatrend.

Technologies Converging

As discussed in our recent webinar on January 13, Energy Storage for Renewables Integration, storage reigns supreme within this metatrend, allowing for greater flexibility in managing electrons across both space and time.  Whether in an electric vehicle battery or advanced batteries deployed as peaking plants on the grid, energy storage has proven to be a linchpin technology unlocking the potential of distributed wind, solar PV, and microgrids.  For example, hybrid solar and storage deployments create exciting opportunities for energy consumers at the edge of the grid.  This is certainly a trend that has begun to emerge in a significant way.

Southern African Power Pool = the New BRIC

This metatrend is among the more difficult to measure, as specific goals remain longer term.  Economic growth appears to be gaining momentum across the region, but developments in Brazil, India, and China continue to overshadow the emergence of dynamic energy economies in Africa.  There is a general sense that investment to date in emerging energy technologies and infrastructure throughout emerging BRIC markets is just the tip of the iceberg.

Utility Role Changing

The changing role of the utility remains the most dynamic metatrend overall.  While predictions of a “utility death spiral” may prove to be overly dire, most acknowledge that utility business models will need to adapt to changing electrical grid realities.  In most cases, this will entail more complex partnerships with customers as utilities move toward more integrated service offerings.  In other cases, utilities may narrow their focus on one or two aspects of the grid, essentially becoming ”poles and wire” companies.

Summarizing, three out of five of these metatrends have materialized in significant ways.  While it is still too early to tell with the others, heading into 2015, we can expect a sustained global shift toward localized power generation and increased pressure on utilities to adopt (or at least explore) alternative business models.

For more on these dynamic changes and others, please see Navigant Research’s free white paper, Smart Grid: 10 Trends to Watch in 2015 and Beyond.

 

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