TODAY’S STUDY: New Energy Trends To Watch In 2019
2019 Renewable Energy Industry Outlook
Marlene Motyka, Decembe 2018 (Deloitte
Looking ahead: Strong fundamentals bolstered by three enabling trends in 2019
The fundamental drivers of renewable energy growth in 2018 are poised to continue in 2019, but we also see three trends coming into sharper focus that are likely to shape renewable growth in the coming year.
In 2018, the US renewable energy sector remained remarkably resilient, gaining ground despite uncertainty about the effects of federal tax reform legislation and a spate of new import tariffs.
Output from utility-scale wind and solar capacity topped 8 percent of total US electricity generation through the third quarter of 2018, compared with 7 percent for the same period in 2017.
We see the fundamental drivers of this growth poised to continue in 2019, but we also see three trends coming into sharper focus that are likely to shape renewable growth in the coming year. Those trends include emerging policies that support renewable growth, expanding investor interest in the sector, and advancing technologies that boost wind and solar energy’s value to the grid, asset owners, and customers.
Some of the core fundamentals that drove growth in 2018 were declining costs of wind and solar generation, advances in battery storage technology, and grid operators’ growing expertise and expanding toolset for integrating intermittent renewable power into the grid.2 And, perhaps most significant, was robust demand from most market segments. Utilities demonstrated strong “voluntary demand,” as opposed to the demand driven by policy mandates we’ve seen in the past. Voluntary procurement represented 52 percent of utility-scale solar projects in development and 73 percent of projects announced in the first half of 2018.3 This demand was partly driven by corporations’ rapidly growing appetite for renewables. As of mid-October 2018, corporations had purchased nearly 5 gigawatts (GW) of renewables through a variety of procurement routes.
Demand from consumers was also robust in 2018, and the findings of the Deloitte Resources 2018 Study demonstrate some of the sentiment behind these trends. More than half of all residential survey respondents (53 percent) indicated that it is extremely or very important to them that part of their electricity supply come from renewable sources, trending upward since 2013.5 And about half (48 percent) of business respondents are working to procure more electricity from renewable sources.
Tax and trade policies will likely continue to impact renewable growth
Potentially accelerated project schedules ahead of tax credit phasedowns suggest a favorable outlook for renewable growth in 2019, while tariffs could continue to create headwinds.
Developers may hasten to begin solar project construction by year end to qualify for federal tax credits before the investment tax credit for solar falls from 30 percent to 26 percent and expedite the in-service dates for wind projects before the production tax credit for wind phases out entirely in 2020.
Federal trade policy will likely continue to create headwinds, specifically the 30 percent import tariff on crystalline-silicon solar cells and modules, and tariffs on imported steel, aluminum, and inverters from China. The solar tariff is scheduled to decline 5 percent annually, eventually falling to 15 percent in year four, and may delay or cancel some projects, particularly utility-scale ones. Steel and aluminum tariffs could increase the levelized cost of energy for new US renewable plants by an estimated 3 to 5 percent.7 However, exclusions on finished goods and geographic exemptions for Mexico and Canada may blunt the overall project cost impact.
Three trends likely to shape renewable growth in 2019
Three additional trends appear poised to strengthen renewable energy growth prospects in 2019: emerging policies, expanding investment interest, and advancing technologies.
Emerging policies…New and renewed policies and initiatives at the local, state, and federal level will likely boost renewable growth in the coming year…Expanding investment…Renewable procurement and project investment is expanding among current buyers and spreading to new groups such as smaller companies, oil and gas companies, and asset management firms…Advancing technologies…Accelerating deployment of renewables across the electricity value chain offers unique opportunities to revisit grid infrastructure and manage household energy usage…
In sum, strong fundamentals, emerging policies, an expanding investment community, and advancing technologies will likely underpin US renewable energy growth in 2019.
Increasing customer demand for renewable energy across almost all market segments continues to expand opportunities. While the current US administration is not focused on decarbonization, states, cities, communities, and businesses with increasingly ambitious sustainability goals are driving renewable growth. Market developments such as the entry of smaller corporations into the corporate procurement market, renewed interest from oil and gas players, and greater involvement of asset management companies offer new opportunities for renewable growth.
The supply side is buoyed by multiple factors beyond technological advances. Renewable energy costs continue to fall, and grid operators have an increasing array of tools and the experience to integrate greater volumes of renewables on the grid. In addition, federal policy on offshore wind and state actions on several fronts will likely stimulate renewable demand in the short term.
Finally, as digital solutions developed for the renewable industry spread across the electricity value chain, renewables are at the vanguard of technology innovation that can open new revenue and business models in the electricity sector.