A Renewable Future Is Now In Reach For The Energy Industry


Clients in the renewable energy industry have historically faced cost challenges in creating...

NES Fircroft

By NES Fircroft

Clients in the renewable energy industry have historically faced cost challenges in creating a sustainable business model, preventing renewable energy sources from challenging traditional oil and gas. However, now the technologies behind harnessing wind and solar energy for low-carbon electric power generation are rapidly reducing in cost, boosting the global renewable energy capacity. This means that for the first time in history, a renewable future is within our grasp, bringing with it both a plethora of job opportunities for skilled professionals, and growing talent pools for clients seeking to staff their worksites.

Renewable energy prices are competing 

The sustainability of our energy sources is vitally important for our planet, and this is driving many major energy companies to invest in alternative power sources. Because of this, energy consumers are seeing utility-scale solar and wind, combined with the battery storage needed to implement these power sources, becoming increasingly more competitive and attainable. The renewables industry is experiencing remarkable advances in cost-competitiveness because technologies that were once immature and hugely expensive are becoming a thing of the past.

Between 2009 and 2017, prices dropped by 76% for solar panels and by 34% for wind turbines, making them, for the first time, competitive alternatives to fossil fuels and more traditional low-carbon energy sources such as hydropower and nuclear.

Utility providers are not only seeing falling costs in the technology needed to harness renewable power, but also seeing the installation costs follow suit, especially when more established technologies of onshore wind and photovoltaic (PV) solar are concerned. Projects that initiated construction at the start of 2019 cost $50/MWh which is 10% lower than it was this time last year and solar projects are, on average, 18% cheaper at $57/MWh.

Renewables are playing a vital role in the progression of the energy industry

Renewable energy may be becoming more affordable, but it’s still not able to take on the full weight of providing power to our homes and communities. The criticism has always been that it can’t meet demand as the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. This is where fossil fuels, currently, have a great advantage.

But, there is a crucial role renewables can play thanks to battery storage.

This missing link would enable the power that’s generated to be saved and kept for future use, and the good news is that the prices of batteries are also coming down. 

Tackling intermittent power 

Battery storage can provide “dispatchable power” meaning it can be delivered when it’s needed, rather than only at the time it’s being generated.

When battery storage works in conjunction with solar power and wind power, renewables can compete with gas and coal power, even without subsidies, and making this even more of a reality is the plummeting costs of battery storage and offshore wind farms. New research from Bloomberg NEF (BNEF) shows that the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 35% over the past year to $187/MWh, whilst the cost of offshore wind is almost a quarter (24%) lower than this time 12 months ago.

The rise of renewables 

Renewable energy now accounts for a third of our global power capacity - according to new data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and almost two-thirds of this generation capacity was led by emerging and developing economies.

They report that Asia accounted for 61% of total new renewable energy installations and grew installed renewables capacity by 11.4%, with Africa following closely behind with a rise of 8.4%. But despite this, growth was fastest in Oceania as they observed a 17.7% rise in 2018.

In April 2019, the US renewables sector generated more electricity than the country's coal power plants for the first time in history, according to analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics. This is a trend that’s predicted to continue as time goes on. Not only is the renewables sector providing price parity, it is also providing grid performance parity.  

Grid performance parity is made possible because PV solar and wind power providers have scaled their operations, driven by the improvements in technology, expanding their capacity for power generation and driving down installation costs.

The market has just announced the first 100m wind turbine blade, specifically for offshore wind projects. With larger blades and a larger machine, we’ll see bigger yields, bigger outputs and better economies of scale for the same type of technology, therefore a lower cost per MWh. Thanks to these technological advances, the costs associated with the renewables industry have fallen much quicker than forecast. As renewable prices continue to fall and efficiency increases, having a future centred on renewable power sources is becoming a more realistic option than ever. 

Renewable energy at NES Global Talent 

At NES we’re excited to see such a sustained and unprecedented growth in renewable technologies supporting the energy industry. Our discipline-specific consultants can support with all stages of your renewable project life cycle, supplying skilled personnel from the funding, design and installation phases right through to project management and grid installations.

We work on some of the most exciting renewables projects globally, from solar plants and wind farms to hydropower facilities, meaning we have plenty of job opportunities for engineers looking to enhance their energy careers.  

Find out more about our experience in the Renewables industry.