Just a couple of decades ago, hearing "solar" or "wind power" might conjure a vague mental image of a photovoltaic panel or wind turbine. Broad-scale renewable energy solutions for the average person might have seemed like a pie-in-the-sky imagining of some futuristic world. Even for those more involved in renewables sectors, growth projections were grossly underestimated. For example, the International Energy Agency's 2001 World Energy Outlook dedicated three short paragraphs to photovoltaics, stating that utility-scale solar would not likely come to fruition in the coming 20 years. Early 2000s and 2010s projections for the 2030 cost decrease for megawatt (MW) capacity were reached within only a few years of publication. Other technologies like wind, electric vehicles, battery storage, and smart grids have also rapidly outpaced projections for growth, pricing, and scale.
In 2020, renewables grew at the fastest rate in two decades. Renewable energy capacity jumped 45 percent from 2019 and set a trajectory to displace fossil fuels within the next decade. Solar is now the cheapest electricity source in history, and 62 percent of renewables in 2020 were cheaper than the cheapest new fossil fuel. We no longer rely on one singular, detached technology or another. Today's energy landscape is a broad, interconnected coalition of industries that, when working together, will push renewable technologies to the next level.
E(merging) Trends in Renewable Progress - Consolidation
Collaboration is not just beneficial for economic development, but is also imperative to combat climate change. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was very clear: humans are causing climate change, and there is not any time to waste. We are seeing rising temperatures; more frequent, severe weather events; sea-level rise; melting ice caps; and more. And these devastating impacts aren't issues of the future - they are happening now.
The United Nations Secretary General called the report a "death knell for coal and fossil fuels," noting that we need "immediate, strong, and large-scale emissions cuts" to minimize the worst of climate damage. He encouraged rapid increase in renewables capacity and said that we must combine forces to make a rapid energy transition. Climate change is a multifaceted issue - no single company or technology can solve it alone. Engaging with all stakeholders in the industrial landscape ensures that everyone understands the importance of committing to renewable growth. Partnerships between governments, NGOs, multilateral institutions, private industries, utilities, and others generate the necessary sustainable innovation in a warming world.
We see this collaborative trend displayed as energy tech organizations nationwide join forces. Last month, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) combined with the Solar Foundation to form a singular nonprofit supporting rapid clean energy adoption. IREC historically provided technical expertise for growing clean energy markets, while the Solar Foundation tackled research and accelerated adoption of solar energy. As a conglomerate, the two will engage and develop initiatives across all renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.
Similarly, the American Clean Power Association (ACP) and U.S. Energy Storage Association (ESA) recently voted to pursue a merger between their staff, programs, and members - recognizing that it is better not to pick and choose one clean energy technology or another. ACP already completed a similar transition early this year, merging with the American Wind Energy Association to form a larger-scope trade group. A statement said the collaboration "better represents the renewables industry of today" by recognizing the value of all technologies - from wind and solar, to storage and transmission. This new collaboration between ACP and ESA will further bring together a diverse set of members and expertise. ACP unifies wind, solar, storage, and transmission companies, while ESA represents more than 200 companies in energy storage manufacturing, deployment, and operations. Once finalized, the merger will "position the renewable energy and storage industries for success as they move into a decade of transformative growth."
Organizations such as ESA, IREC, and the Solar Foundation are recognizing that the clean energy economy is more than just one clean energy technology. To combat climate change and its urgency, organizations must consider the entire suite of technologies and be poised to act when new clean energy technologies are developed and commercialized. Our climate depends on it.
Leyline Renewable Capital actively participates in this new world of broad-scale technological collaboration, providing capital for diverse renewable energy ventures nationwide. "It's important to approach today's renewables world as a puzzle with many pieces," says CEO Erik Lensch. "Working with a singular puzzle piece won't work, not if we want to see the full picture. Similarly, Leyline doesn't just lend into one technology - we work at the intersections of solar, wind, battery storage, and renewable natural gas projects like landfill gas and anaerobic digestion. Each component is important to achieve clean energy and climate goals." Leyline is excited for the collaboratives emerging throughout the renewables sector. We look forward to progress from additional mergers in the future.