For the energy-efficiency and distributed-energy sectors, 2018 was action packed. Voice-based virtual assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, distinguished themselves as some of the most quickly adopted consumer electronics products in history—outpacing smartphones, smart thermostats, TVs, radio, the internet, and personal computers—and picked up numerous new energy-efficiency capabilities. The electric car company Tesla not only survived a chaotic year in which it faced financial ruin, but also dramatically ramped up its production capabilities to the extent that it nearly quadrupled its US sales in just one year and delivered more electric vehicles (EVs) in the US than all other companies combined. The Trump administration imposed tariffs on products from China, which led to increases on some LED lighting products and a slowing-down of the long-standing trend of decreasing prices for photovoltaic systems. We wrote about all these trends, and many more, in our new report Top 20 Technologies and Trends of 2018 (available with certain E Source memberships).

The underlying forces that led to these trends are unlikely to diminish in this new year. We think many are harbingers of what’s to come in 2019.

Utility engagement with voice-based virtual assistants will intensify

An ever-growing selection of skills and actions will likely allow customers to enable coordination across connected devices to improve efficiency and manage demand; contact trade allies; and enroll in demand-side management or revenue-generation programs.

Tesla will face growing pains after a year of incredible expansion

Yes, the company did pull off a miracle in 2018, but it will undoubtedly face the consequences of its meteoric rise in 2019. This year, the company will have to work to sell customers on the idea that they should still line up to buy its cars, even though they’ll receive half the federal tax credits that last year’s customers enjoyed.

Tesla dominated battery EV sales in 2018

Tesla’s three cars were the most popular choices for battery EV consumers in 2018, with US sales numbers dwarfing those of competing EVs. The best-selling non-Tesla vehicle is Chevrolet’s Bolt, which sold about one-tenth as many vehicles as the Model 3. Note that this graph only features the six best-selling battery EVs of 2018.
Bar chart of EVs sales through November 2018. Tesla sold 139,782 Model 3s. Tesla sold 26,100 Model Ss. Tesla sold 25,745 Model Xs. Chevrolet sold 18,019 Bolts. Nissan sold 14,715 Leafs. BMW sold 6,117 i3s.

Utilities will intensify their efforts to ramp up their cybersecurity capabilities

The more everything is connected to everything, the less secure everything gets. In 2018, we saw the emergence of an independent voluntary standard called Cybersecurity Verification Process from the CSA Group in Canada, and BC Hydro was an early pilot participant. Be on the lookout for more such efforts in 2019.

Electrification will continue to gain adherents as the guiding principle for a decarbonized world

Watch for more electrification-related public and corporate policies. Watch, as well, for more gas companies to raise well-reasoned objections. Furthermore, watch those same gas companies continue to develop new technologies that enable the gas grid to play a role in the decarbonization movement.

For E Source Technology Assessment Service members seeking more information, read the full report Top 20 Technologies and Trends of 2018.

Contributing Authors

Board Member, Senior Fellow

Jay Stein is focused on expertise development, research skills development, quality control, new product development, and technology assessment....