We expect 2018 to continue advancing toward cleaner, smarter, more-efficient, and more-customer-responsive energy systems.
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March 28, 2018

Top Tech Trends of 2017

Each year, the E Source tech team highlights the most-exciting, newsworthy, or promising technologies to date. This year’s trends include:

  • Batteries and electric vehicles (EVs), which came onto the grid in higher numbers than ever before.
  • Deeper market penetration of energy-efficient technologies; for example, LEDs are on the verge of becoming the baseline general-purpose lighting technology.
  • Innovative design for switched-reluctance motors combined with clever new software.
  • The use of analytics software to automate meter-based measurement and verification (M&V) of savings from efficiency measures.
  • Whole-home renewable energy systems that combine solar, batteries, smart home devices, and artificial intelligence to manage energy use.

Let’s go into detail on two trends that made this year’s list.

Batteries Come Online in a Big, Distributed Way

In our 2016 report An Explanation of Current Grid Energy Storage Technologies (available to certain E Source members), we wrote about how batteries represent a tiny fraction (about 1%) of grid-connected energy storage. The Aliso Canyon gas storage leak in Los Angeles County, California, brought an urgency for more grid storage, leading to about 500 megawatts of battery storage that’s come online in California in 2017. It also marked a major shift in US residential battery storage, making this the first time that new grid-tied batteries outnumbered new off-grid systems.

Graphic of home battery storage

In a future where grid storage may be dominated by small, distributed electrochemical systems, more grid-connected batteries on both the utility and customer sides of the meter will create a greater need to cost-effectively manage and utilize distributed storage assets. Batteries have the technical capability to respond quickly to absorb or release electricity as needed, but the lifetime cost of operating each battery varies depending on management choices. Utilities are well positioned to manage batteries, just like they manage other assets on the distribution grid, as long as they’re able to make it their priority to do so.

Utilities Prepare for EV Onslaught

In past years, the number of utilities that seriously focused on EV adoption was small. Collectively, utilities viewed EVs as more of a threat than an opportunity, partly because many felt their hands were tied when it came to growing revenues via transportation electrification. As of 2017, we saw utilities preparing for EV mainstreaming in a serious way, acknowledging that it’s no longer a matter of “if” EVs will be adopted in mass but “how many and when?”

Bar chart showing the exponential rise of electric vehicle sales

In the land of EVs—California, where most of the EVs in the US are sold—regulators only recently granted investor-owned utilities permission to invest in EV-charging infrastructure, and these utilities are wasting no time. So far, they’ve requested permission to spend on the order of $1 billion collectively on recent EV initiatives.

On the vehicle side, the trend in longer driving distance continues, and there are now more than half a dozen available EV models with more than 100 miles all-electric range. Although the average list price of EVs in 2010 was about $75,000, it dropped to below $50,000 in 2017 and continues to decline in spite of longer driving ranges and greater number of purpose-built models (not electrified versions of popular gas models).

We see no signs of slowing for the current trend in transportation electrification. In fact, if you have an electrification initiative, we expect EVs to be among your top priorities.

Want to See More of Our Picks?

Although no trend lasts forever, we expect 2018 to continue advancing toward cleaner, smarter, more-efficient, and more-customer-responsive energy systems. Check out this publicly available e-book for more on 5 of the 20 technologies we highlight in the Top 20 Technologies and Trends of 2017 report—available to certain E Source members.

About the Author

Andrea Salazar

ANDREA SALAZAR

Practice Director

Andrea began her career in the energy industry as a project manager for a photovoltaic installation company. When she first joined E Source in 2010, she focused on researching energy-efficient technologies as well as programs and policies. After four years, she joined the Engineering & Technology Solutions Practice at EMI Consulting, where she managed impact evaluations, conducted engineering desk reviews and technology assessments, and provided technical guidance and consulting to numerous utility clients. She rejoined E Source in 2017 as director of the technology assessment practice, where she leads a team of engineers and physicists with the goal of helping E Source members solve their most-challenging tech issues. Her areas of expertise include understanding the human elements of energy-efficient technology adoption, M&V 2.0, energy analytics, renewable energy systems, sustainable building design, and impact evaluation methodologies. She holds a BS in engineering physics and an MS in building science engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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Contributing Authors

Practice Director, Technology Assessment

Andrea Salazar began her career in the energy industry as a project manager for a photovoltaic installation company. When she first joined E ...