The global renewable energy market is feeling the impact of COVID-19, with complications such as shutdowns interrupting project development and the volatility of financial markets limiting capital expenditures. However, the market and its players have been exceedingly resilient, persevering despite the difficult circumstances. As we look back on what was an incredibly challenging year, we are encouraged by the amount of progress that was made, despite the pandemic. Advances in technology, human ingenuity, and a fierce dedication to bettering our world helped keep clean energy evolving at a steady pace.
Below we have highlighted some of the market trends that we directly witnessed over the past year. Additionally, we are including some of GridMarket’s achievements and role in facilitating success as part of these identified trends. We are optimistic about what 2021 holds as we continue to accelerate towards a more resilient, sustainable energy future for our planet. Clean energy has never been more 'mainstream' and top of mind than it is now. The International Energy Agency’s Renewables 2020 Report forecasts that renewables will be the largest source of global electricity generation by 2025, and we are determined to help meet and exceed this goal.
Persistence and progress across the industry despite challenges and changes due to COVID
The catastrophic impacts of the pandemic have created significant shifts in energy usage patterns. Various studies have shown how lockdowns, reductions in travel and tourism, and behavioral changes altered how energy was demanded and consumed. Typically predictable working hours, demand trends, and regional expectations were turned on their heads as people transitioned to working from home and typical day to day routines were altered. Essential sectors saw higher energy demand and a greater need for resilient, reliable power, while tragically, many small businesses were forced to close their doors indefinitely. The global economy that emerges after we beat this pandemic will look and function much differently. However, energy remains as critical as ever to our lives and, for many, the pandemic served as a wake-up call to plan for the future. New market drivers have emerged, and existing ones intensified. Commercial and industrial customers considered distributed energy solutions to save operating capital in times when revenue and budgets were down. With many traditional operational practices disrupted, there were new opportunities to consider and implement DERS.
GridMarket’s project pipeline continued to grow in 2020. Projects at cold storage warehouses, universities, industrial facilities, commercial properties, and more were completed in the year, or are currently under development and will be operational in 2021. We launched new partnerships with governments, utilities, and commercial customers, contributing to new and sustained activity on the platform in major global markets. We continued expanding and refining the capabilities of our AI-driven project facilitation platform. The platform was able to complete remote assessments and advance project sales cycles despite lock downs and travel restrictions. A number of ‘mainstream’ project announcements from large companies put pressure on others in the market, and we saw a number of organizations looking to sustainable solutions to keep pace. Throughout 2020, GridMarket continued to work with strategic partner Marubeni across a number of initiatives, including applying the platform across Marubeni’s global portfolio of affiliates and subsidiaries to target the top opportunities for DER proliferation.
United Nations pushes climate change as major theme and priority
In addition to the critical COVID response, the UN maintained a strong narrative around the importance of the battle against climate change. The United Nations Development Programme prioritized clean energy technologies as a fundamental pillar of the global plan for economic recovery. According to the UN, near-term actions must lead us to a green, sustainable future where we work to protect our natural resources. The UNDP’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals drove many economic and environmental decisions made across the globe as we transitioned to a new year. Additionally, our world saw a dramatic drop in carbon emissions during the shutdowns, giving us a glimpse into what is possible if we truly commit to changing some of our traditional practices.
GridMarket was active in a number of UN events and forums throughout 2020. One of GridMarket’s marquee partnerships in 2020 was with the Independent State of Samoa. GridMarket committed to helping transition Samoa to 100% renewable generation. Along with partners at the United Nations and The Island Resilience Partnership, GridMarket created a multi-phased approach of achievable milestones to be planned and executed through the platform. With Phase One set to roll out in 2020, the pandemic initially threatened to derail the RFP process, but the Samoan Government and local utility, EPC, remained dedicated to achieving project success. A rapid pivot from anticipated in-person, physical site visits and walk-throughs for down-selected RFP participants to virtual site/infrastructure captures was necessary due to travel restrictions. GridMarket orchestrated a fully remote process, leveraging local resources, drone footage, digital imaging, and cloud based documentation to create a bid package within the platform that enabled vendors to have remote access to all critical project information. The process was the first of its kind at such a large scale and under such unprecedented circumstances and vendor negotiations are now underway. Samoa’s commitment to combating climate change has been an inspiration to us and all partners involved in the process.
Renewable/distributed technologies see positive trends in pricing and regulation
2020 saw sustained policy momentum that signaled a bright future for renewable and distributed energy technologies. Nationally, FERC Order 2222 was a highlight, along with a number of exciting localized programs and initiatives. Washington, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, among other states, announced integrated resource plans and renewable generation targets. Globally, we saw many major players accelerate carbon commitments and reach significant milestones driven by actionable policy. Starbucks made news when it invested in a new PPA aggregation structure for a number of portfolio projects, and Amazon became the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. As hardware prices continued a steady decline, renewables were increasingly cost competitive, even as fluctuations in the demand for oil brought prices to record lows. Green jobs were forecasted to continue growing and new technology research and development continued to produce cutting-edge solutions.
GridMarket felt the impacts of 2020’s policy and pricing landscape first hand. Policy being implemented and under consideration continued to open up markets, enable pathways for DERs, and support overall market growth, despite the challenging circumstances. We remained excited about the bids and proposals we saw coming through the platform, as our vendor partners were able to provide competitive pricing with project and ownership structures that met customer needs. We were encouraged by the available programs, incentives, and streamlined processes increasingly available in the market. We also saw a number of different project structures - like VPPAs - gain traction as viable options. Additionally, many of the vendors in our marketplace introduced exciting new technologies. For example, our partner PLM Trailer Leasing recently announced the launch of its zero-emissions Transport Refrigerated Unit. Technologies like this are critical in markets such as California, where ambitious EV mandates and incentives are in place.
Sustained and increasing renewable energy targets and carbon commitments
Even in the midst of the pandemic, local governments around the world did not lose sight of the climate crisis. The year saw many cities and nations setting and increasing carbon reduction and renewable generation targets. In coordination with the United Nations, many of the participants in the Paris Climate Agreement revised and increased their Nationally Determined Contributions. In the private sector, commercial businesses such as Cisco and Bristol Myers Squibb announced ambitious goals around renewable generation.
In our work over the last year, we have seen and partnered with many commercial and industrial customers who have new and heightened internal targets with teams dedicated to realizing those milestones. GridMarket’s role was critical for many new customers who wanted to pursue energy projects, but needed a trusted partner to help them identify an actionable strategy and connect with best-fit solution providers. Additionally, a growing pipeline of utility and government customers began working with GridMarket to deploy the platform as a framework for DER planning and execution strategies.
Resiliency and grid hardening prioritized for utilities and ratepayers
The need for resiliency and emergency preparedness became an even greater priority this year. We saw intense storms and catastrophic impacts, further illuminating the need to decentralize regional grids and provide reliable power to citizens and ratepayers. Utility innovation departments actively pursued strategies to strengthen the grid through behind and in front of the meter DER assets domestically and internationally.
We saw customers and partners rank resiliency as a top priority along with economic and carbon benchmarks when exploring project opportunities. Resiliency also continued to be a critical component of our ongoing island initiatives in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Our scalable solution for supporting small island nations and vulnerable communities was introduced to provide a pathway to resiliency and energy independence in a number of new locations. Many of our commercial and industrial customers expressed an increased interest in battery storage paired with generation assets in order to maximize resiliency and emergency back-up generation. Business models and project structures continued to establish themselves as viable alternatives to capital purchases, making hybrid-asset projects feasible to a growing subset of customers.
GridMarket has created an industry-leading platform, built from the ground up by a team of experts who are dedicated to one simple goal: getting clean energy projects done. Our project facilitation tool is disrupting traditional development practices through data, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics. We are distributed energy experts, so that you don't have to be.
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