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The Year Ahead: 2015 Trends in Cleantech

cleantech predictions for 2015

As we reach the end of 2014, our thoughts naturally turn to what 2015 might bring. In the cleantech industry, in particular, there exists a lot of questions regarding the future year. For example:

  • Will the recent elections result in new government policies that slow cleantech’s growth?
  • Will the surge we are seeing in the energy storage market continue?
  • What will the EPA’s final Clean Power Plan look like? And will legal challenges keep it from being implemented?
  • Will stable financing mechanisms for energy efficiency projects finally emerge?

To gain some perspective on these questions, and (perhaps more importantly) to learn more about the questions I should be asking, I polled some of the cleantech industry’s leaders to find what they were expecting to see in the coming year. Some of their responses can be found below.

Ucilia Wang, contributing writer, Forbes

“There will be more competition in the zero-emission vehicle category as more hydrogen fuel-cell car models are introduced, and fuel cell charging infrastructure is expanded. It will be interesting to see how Tesla deals with this development. In addition, the residential solar market will continue to grow at a strong rate as the idea of being able to generate your own power continues to catch on with the public.”

Lyndsey Gilpin, staff writer, TechRepublic

“2015 will be the year that cleantech truly goes mainstream, as dropping panel prices convince people that solar is here to stay. In addition to the drop in solar panel prices, mainstream acceptance of cleantech will be driven by tech companies, which are increasingly sourcing renewable energy for their datacenters and other operations. I also expect that VCs will get back into the cleantech game in a big way, as a lot of start-ups emerge seeking to tackle some of the existing problems, such as battery storage, energy transmission, and data analytics, facing the energy sector.”

James Tong, vice president of strategy, Clean Power Finance

“The big thing I think you will see in 2015 is more utility engagement with distributed energy resources (DERs), which include not just solar and wind, but also things like energy storage, demand response, and smart thermostats. Utilities are reevaluating their role in the market, and increasingly see themselves as businesses that succeed by helping companies and consumers manage energy, not just consume it. This reevaluation is leading utilities to accommodate or even encourage development of DERs. In addition, I think we will see more innovation on the DER financing side—new loan products, better underwriting services, and more capital from new types of investors.”

Dan Rosen, founder and president, Mosaic

“In 2015 we will continue our movement towards a more distributed world. There will be more distributed energy — solar on the rooftops of more homes and commercial buildings, more electric cars and more energy storage in the garage. We also are going to see a more distributed financial system to enable the masses to invest in solar. And finally, we will see further penetration of the ultimate distribution tool of them all — the internet, — which will enable big data and social networks to spread solar more quickly.”

Zachary Shahan, director, CleanTechnica

“Grid storage was big in 2014, and it will get even bigger in 2015. And as this market evolves, we will soon have a better idea of who the real major players are, and who are the also-rans. Solar will continue its amazing growth, especially as solar soft costs continue to go down in the U.S. and elsewhere. The other big thing in 2015 will be the electric vehicle (EV) market. While still dominated by early adopters, the main barrier to EV greater adoption – lack of customer knowledge and experience – is quickly eroding, as people increasingly realize that EVs are competitive with traditional vehicles both in terms of price and performance.”

Michael Kanellos, senior vice president, Eastwick Communications

“Finance is the word for 2015. Although we will see some interesting innovations in racking and solar electronics next year, the main activity in the industry will revolve around new financing vehicles for residential and commercial solar. You’re going to see a lot of variations on PPAs, loans and leases in solar, storage and efficiency— SunEdison kicked off a bigger revolution than people thought ten years ago.”

Jennifer Runyon, chief editor, Renewable Energy World

“What I expect to see in 2015 is a lot more transformation and change in the utility sector as solar and other renewable energy technologies force utilities to grapple with how to handle distributed generation. It is clear that utilities need to change their business models – the question is, how will they change them to allow for more integration of distributed energy resources into the grid?”

Alla Weinstein, CEO and president, Principle Power

“2015 will see a continuation of current trends – solar energy will continue to become mainstream with declining installation costs; wind will continue to expand, especially offshore, and we should see more electric cars on the roads. Specifically, faced with the facts of climate change and its real impact on their lives, people will increasingly realize that renewable energy and electric vehicles are not a luxury, but a necessity for a sustainable planet. The science, and the facts on the ground, will make it more difficult than ever to keep one’s head in the sand when it comes to climate change.”

The consensus seems to be that 2015 will be a great year for solar, renewable finance and electric vehicles. What do you think 2015 holds for cleantech?

Photo Credit: Looking Forward in Cleantech/shutterstock

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