Creating a Clean and Sustainable Energy Future: Opportunities and Challenges

Envision what a sustainable energy future will be like beyond today
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The heightened awareness of the impact of climate change on the environment and the desire to create a sustainable energy future has increased the investments in clean energy technologies, the strategies to decrease carbon emissions and the ability limit the use of traditional fossil fuels. Distributed and renewable energy initiatives have been going on for years in the utilities and power sectors, but as of late both the energy producers and the consumers have become more determined and are completely buying in to taking responsibility and more of a role in how energy is produced, consumed, and sold in an environmentally friendly, efficient, and sustainable manner.

Distributed and renewable energy have a wide range of technologies and applications, from utility connected windfarms, tidal hydro generation to residential solar. The desire to become green and clean when it comes to energy has continued to gain momentum globally. There are great opportunities to invest in a sustainable energy future from an environmental, technology and economic point of view and on the flip side there are plenty of challenges and hurdles that will be faced along the way.

Investing in Building a Sustainable Energy Future- Opportunities

A major energy transition is taking place with the proliferation of clean and sustainable energy growing at steady rates.  The fastest growing form of clean energy is solar.  Whether it be residential behind the meter roof top solar, or utility connected solar farms the growth of solar is changing the traditional make up of the power generation supply stack. There continues to be an effort to retire or reduce the need for traditional fossil fuel generation such as coal, oil and natural gas units and replacing or supplementing them with distributed and renewable energy such as wind, solar and hydro. Utilities and electric consumers alike are investing in ways not only to produce clean energy but also how to conserve energy while lessening carbon footprints and making efforts to clean up the environment as a whole.

Environmental social and governance efforts by large corporations is a rising trend and can be directly tied to clean and sustainable energy which can have positive implications related to the environment for many generations to come. Electric vehicles, demand side management, grid flexibility, and power generation optimization are all examples of rapidly growing areas where technology investments for both energy producers and consumers are playing a critical role in supporting the energy transition to a clean a sustainable future in the fight to battle climate change and preserve the environment.

The Hurdles and Obstacles in Creating a Sustainable Energy Future- Challenges

Striving for and investing in a sustainable energy future is interesting and exciting as many companies and individuals are fully committed and very passionate about it. That said, building a sustainable energy future is a continuous process and one that can face plenty of hurdles and roadblocks along the way.  There are a wide range of challenges when pursuing a sustainable energy future from learning new skill sets, understanding the benefits of new technologies and the keeping up with the constant changes in energy regulations- to name a few.

Distributed and renewable energy is on an increasingly aggressive path for growth. That said, the majority of energy and power resources in many regions are still primarily fossil fuels. For example, in North America natural gas, crude oil and distillate fuels are still abundant energy resources and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. This does not mean that a sustainable and clean energy future is not possible, but it does mean that the path to zero emissions and a generation supply stack of 100 percent renewables will be long term goal realizing that fossil fuels and non-clean energy will still play a substantial role in the energy sector for many years to come. 

Clean energy technologies that enable a sustainable energy future have excellent growth opportunities but investors must be realistic and prepared to take a look at the big picture and have a long term view on how we get there. Heavy investment of distributed and renewable energy and the advancement of technologies that can enable a sustainable energy future such as energy storage will be needed to preserve environment. In addition to new technologies, new skill sets, regulations, and new market mechanisms will also need to be created and tested in efforts to help move the globe to green and clean energy future. It will be a lifetime effort for many who will work towards a full proof clean energy future.

A Path Towards a Sustainable and Clean Energy Future

In the efforts to shape the path towards a clean and sustainable energy future below are some key actions to consider.

  • Build a long-term strategy– A sustainable and clean energy future will not happen overnight.  Clean and sustainable energy efforts will be continuous and, in most case will be a lifelong process. Envision what a sustainable energy future will be like beyond today. Having a long-term view will require thoughtful strategy and long-term goals and planning that will have both a tactical approach as well as a strategic forward looking approach on what a clean and sustainable energy environment will look like in the years and decades to come.
  • Start with clear attainable goals and KPI’s. Starting the quest toward a clean and sustainable energy future can be daunting and overwhelming. Start with an attainable project and be sure to set specific KPIs.  Whether it is implementing an asset performance management system, or a distributed energy resource management system set clear objectives on what you want to achieve when investing in technologies which can help your organization meet your goals and KPIs as it relates to long-term clean and sustainable energy.
  • Keep up to speed with new skills sets, technologies and regulations which can enable a clean and sustainable energy future. Technologies and skill sets needed along with regulatory changes that can drive a clean and sustainable energy future will be constantly evolving and changing. Working towards a clean and sustainable energy future will require organizations and individuals to become more nimble, aware, and knowledgeable in order to make the proper adjustments and investments to keep up with the everchanging skill sets, technologies and regulations which will be favorable and necessary as you strive towards a clean and sustainable energy future.

To learn more about the digital transformation taking place in utilities operations, join us for the upcoming webinar, “Digital Transformation Strategies in Utilities Operations”, live on September 14th at 11 AM/ET. Click the button below to register.

John is primarily responsible for thought leadership in the area of utility digital transformation. He joins the IDC Energy Insights group with an impressive background in the power and natural gas markets. John's skillset stems from a deep history in the North American power and natural gas markets. That experience has given him the ability to expertly evaluate and communicate the intricate challenges that face the energy industry today.