Innovation interest in renewable energy tech has been declining in recent years, achieving a peak around 4 years ago, according to a recent analysis from Lux Research.
According to the market research firm, this means that the long-term growth trajectory of the market is “thrown into question” — further “innovation momentum” is necessary for continued tech improvements to occur.
The new analysis was based around the use of high-throughput parallel investigation of numerous extensive and “complex” datasets using algorithms — the method being dubbed “The Lux Tech Signal” — according to Lux Research. The approach has reportedly proven itself fairly accurate with regard to emerging tech as varied as AI and health sensors, or with regard to fading “innovation” as varied as diesel engines and quinoa (the grain).
Here are some interesting comments from Cosmin Laslau of Lux Research about the analysis (via Green Car Congress): “If, on the whole, we see a downward trend, then what does it mean that innovation interest is declining in clean energy — is that bad? There are two main schools of thought. The first interpretation is that the hard work has already been done in terms of technology development, and that solar, wind, and other renewables have reached a good enough status to eventually become the world’s main power sources. According to this theory, what remains are incremental improvements, business model work, and scale-up investment. If that is the case, then companies that are actively innovating in renewable energy breakthroughs need to pull back, because they are trying to solve a problem that has already been addressed. That is one interpretation of the data’s peak above, but we caution that it is a dangerous and complacent one: Given the extremely high costs of solar plus storage systems today, to take one example, it seems unlikely that incremental improvements will be sufficient.
“The second interpretation is that the world has an alarming innovation gap when it comes to renewables: We are experiencing a lull in creativity and commitment, but still need further breakthroughs to enable a true transition to a future grid that is largely driven by renewables. In this school of thought, the data above points to an opportunity for risk-taking, visionary companies to push through to the next level of renewable energy technology, with all of the potential benefits in terms of cost-savings, resiliency, and other advantages.”
Which interpretation seems more accurate to those reading this? Is all the low hanging fruit of renewable energy development already picked? Is all that remains now implementation and slow, expensive improvements? Is it just that modern culture is like a hyperactive child and can’t focus on any one thing long enough to get necessary work done?
Notably, the situation as regards energy storage tech is fairly similar to the one regarding renewables, going by the new analysis.
Naturally, this report goes against some common assumptions and other research in the industry. Bloomberg New Energy Finance sees solar panel prices dropping by a large percentage in the coming years from continued improvements to the technology and manufacturing process, and it also sees wind turbine technology continuing to improve, even after becoming the cheapest option for new electricity production in many if not most places. It is also projecting continued advancements in battery storage technology and cost reductions that follow the energy storage option’s experience curve in recent years.