2015 was a great year for energy, with an estimated $310 billion now being invested in the energy efficiency market annually worldwide.
What helped make 2015 such a banner year? According to a recent article in Fortune, low oil prices, coal plant closures, a landmark climate change deal in Paris, and record-setting global solar projects all contributed to the growth and unprecedented success of energy efficiency initiatives, programs, and technology in 2015.
With that said, what can we expect in 2016? According to the article, here are the five major trends to watch for in energy efficiency in 2016:
Continued rock bottom oil prices
Oil prices are ultra low and the oil and gas industry has been hit hard. Exploration and production companies are defaulting, big oil companies are slashing their 2016 budgets, and more than 200,000 jobs globally have been lost.
Analysts expect oil prices to stay at rock bottom because of dropping demand from China and the Paris climate agreement. This suggests countries are committed to reducing their reliance on fossil fuel energy more than before. Some industry-watchers think the low oil prices will completely change the landscape of the oil industry for good.
Continued growth of solar projects
The solar industry was on fire in 2015, especially in hot markets like the U.S. This popularity can be attributed to cheap solar panel prices, as well as companies capitalizing on new software, analytics, third-party financing, and marketing. Also, the recent renewal of an important tax credit for solar will continue to boost the U.S. solar industry for several more years.
China and India are also big future markets for solar, with China was slated to install as much solar in 2015 as America has done cumulatively to date. Chile and Mexico also have growing solar markets. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts solar will account for 35% of new power generation infrastructure built out over the next 25 years. That equals $3.7 trillion that will be spent on small and large scale solar projects globally.
Continued phase out of coal in developed countries
The Paris agreement was a huge signal that coal is being phased out in developed countries like the U.S. and much of Europe. Reliance is even being diminished in China, as the country seeks to clean up its air pollution.
In 2015, the U.S. shed coal jobs and will continue to do so in 2016. Moody’s Investors Service says the coal industry’s earnings in North America fell by 25% this year. Half the world’s coal reserves are now not profitable enough to extract, says the firm.
The only outlier when it comes to coal is India, who says it needs coal along with solar to meet its basic power generation growth needs.
Tentative return of nuclear power
Following the nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, countries stalled the development of new nuclear plants, and closed down aging plants outright. But now Japan, the U.S., and some countries in Europe, are revisiting new nuclear.
The power generation technology is unique in that it provides a large amount of power around the clock, but doesn’t have carbon emissions. Environmentalists are increasingly beginning to stand behind nuclear for just that reason.
Increased popularity of batteries and energy storage
Thanks to the shrinking costs of lithium-ion batteries, batteries will increasingly be used to power electric cars, help manage the power grid, and store energy for buildings in 2016.
Utilities are using batteries for the power grid as a way to avoid building and using on-demand power plants, which can be inefficient, dirty, and expensive to operate. Electric car makers are also increasingly using cheaper batteries to lower the overall costs of electric cars, making them more affordable for mainstream consumers. And, home and building owners are using batteries as a way to shift electricity use off of the grid (and onto batteries) when power rates are high.
For more details on these 2016 energy trends, read the complete Fortune article.