Several market trends are driving renewable energy to become a mainstream energy form and a preferred source. Three “key enablers” propelling this upshot and empowering solar and wind to compete with conventional sources equally are—parity, integration, and technology. This implies that solar and wind can now beat conventional sources on price while matching their performance; their integration can help solve grid problems, and they are seizing leading technologies to get ahead of conventional sources.
As solar and wind power now come closest to meeting three key energy consumer priorities—cost-effectiveness, decarbonization, and reliability—what role will they play in creating smart renewable cities?
Once dismissed as too expensive to expand beyond niche markets, solar and wind can now beat conventional sources on price while increasingly matching their performance. The idea that renewables present many integration problems in need of solutions has reversed.
The speed of solar and wind deployment and their steeply declining cost curves have surprised even the most optimistic industry players and observers. Ahead of projections and despite lingering perceptions to the contrary, wind and solar power have become competitive with conventional generation technologies across the top global markets, even without subsidies. Wind and solar have reached grid price parity and are moving closer to performance parity with conventional sources.
One of the most often cited obstacles to the deployment of solar and wind energy has been their intermittency. The situation is reversing: Wind and solar may soon cease to appear as problems to be solved, but rather as solutions to grid balancing. What’s more, they have demonstrated an ability to strengthen grid resilience and reliability and provide essential grid services
New technologies involving automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain, as well as advanced materials and manufacturing processes, can accelerate the deployment of renewables. The technologies range from those streamlining the production and operation of renewables (automation and advanced manufacturing) to those optimizing their use (AI in weather forecasting), improving the market for renewables (blockchain), and transforming the materials of solar panels and wind turbines (advanced materials). These technologies support the previous two trends by helping to further decrease costs and facilitate integration.