According to the United Nations Environment Programme and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, investments in renewables for 2015 added up to $286-billion, which represented a 3% higher spend than the previous year. Other forms of electricity generation drew less than half the investment made in solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.
This year, solar power is again at the forefront of renewable energy trends set to benefit from substantial investments from multinationals and governments in developed and developing countries.
Ganesh Bell, chief digital officer for GE Power, recently said: “More than 75% of the global energy supply still depends on non-renewable sources. In 2017, more utility-scale wind and solar will reach grid parity and in many regions, these generation sources will offer lower-priced options to traditional options.”
Five solar energy trends for 2017
Corporates will adopt renewables in a big way
Several major multinational companies made their growing interest in renewable energy known last year with serious commitments from the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft, who formed an alliance to find sources from which to buy renewable energy. This trend will undoubtedly filter down to smaller companies looking to save money on energy expenditure.
Small solar businesses will flourish
Small to medium solar businesses, particularly those specialising in rooftop solar panel installation, are more likely to thrive than bigger corporations, which survive by incurring a great deal of high-risk debt. Residential solar systems are poised to become more popular and therefore profitable, and companies catering to this market should experience significant growth.
Developing countries will take the lead
The Indian government is preparing to spend $3-billion in state funding to build up its solar panel manufacturing capabilities to hopefully generate 100MW of power in the next few years. It’s widely accepted that China is already at the forefront of solar PV manufacturing and utilisation, and the good news is that its government will now move its solar energy policy forward by imposing an energy tax which will result in more consumers and businesses adopting rooftop solar solutions.
Pay as you go solar in Africa
There are still some 600-million people in Africa who lack access to stable electricity and who do not have the money for home solar systems. The pay-as-you-go solution has been working well in certain parts of Africa and is achieving success in bringing power to underserviced sectors on the continent.
This year, these small-scale entrepreneurs are expected to attract major investment to support their efforts in providing affordable power options for those who need it the most.
Clean energy offers job growth opportunities
While the establishment of solar panel manufacturing infrastructure has already provided hundreds of thousands of jobs all over the world, specific investments will take this forward in a more meaningful manner. A leading Japanese tech industry icon, Masayoshi Son of Softbank, has committed to investing $50-billion in the United States to create an estimated 50,000 new jobs and he has also committed to spending $20-billion to develop solar power in India. It is expected that Africa will benefit from similar investments.