2020 was supposed to be a big year for renewable energy. As the COVID-19 pandemic tightened budgets and restricted construction, it tempered those expectations but didn’t quite end them. The renewable energy trends that looked like they’d shape 2020 may come back to play a role in 2021.
The renewable energy market may have slowed in 2020, but it’s still performing comparatively well. Wind and hydropower accounted for 90% of energy capacity increases globally, and renewables were some of the only power sources that grew. New green energy projects haven’t met pre-COVID expectations, but they’re still on the rise.
2020 has disrupted the world’s priorities, which will affect the sustainable power market, both for good and ill. Here are some of the leading renewable energy trends that will emerge or continue in 2021.
Solar Power Will Rebound
In 2020, new solar power installations declined. Although solar panels are getting cheaper all the time, they’re still initially expensive. As business slowed during lockdowns, companies and residential users alike didn’t always have the funds to spend on new solar projects.
As the world recovers, both economically and in health, solar power will rebound to pre-pandemic growth levels. This recovery won’t be fast, but it will happen. Solar panel manufacturers and installers will see steady growth, but it will take most of the year before they’re back to normal.
Sustainable Data Centres
Digital transformation accelerated in 2020. Companies have realised they can save up to 80% by scaling with containerisation, pushing many towards cloud adoption. As businesses rush to the cloud for these savings, it creates more demand for data centres, which are becoming increasingly green.
Several data centre companies have committed to 100% sustainable energy as climate issues become more prominent. Since these projects are growing so quickly, this will be one of renewable energy’s biggest use cases in 2021.
Renewed Focus on Transportation
One of the most significant renewable energy trends in the U.K. this year will be a new focus on transportation. In late 2020, Boris Johnson announced a ban on petrol car sales from 2030. This shortened timeline will drive a new emphasis on producing sustainable vehicles.
New renewable energy installations for buildings may slow down by comparison. Government-backed projects, in particular, will favour transportation over other use cases for renewable power.
Price Hikes for Some Renewables
China produces many of the crucial components for solar panels, which brings some challenges for solar power in 2021. Factory shutdowns in the country threaten to raise the price of these materials, which could affect overall solar panel prices as well.
International supply chains, in general, have seen remarkable disruptions this past year. As a result, renewables that rely on them could see a temporary price hike. This trend could slow adoption in the short term, especially for residential users.
Vaccine Rollout Will Lead to New Off-Grid Renewable Projects
The U.K. hopes to vaccinate every adult by autumn this year. At least two of the available COVID-19 vaccines require ultra-cold storage, demanding flexible, off-grid energy solutions. Renewables are the ideal answer to this problem, as they’re often more flexible than traditional power.
As the nation ramps up vaccine distribution, it could drive the development of novel renewable energy technologies. If these prove effective, it could help encourage renewable adoption in the future. The technologies that emerge from this area could also be helpful in other cases, too.
Renewable Energy Faces Ups and Downs in 2021
Much like last year, renewable energy trends in 2021 will vary in positivity. In some cases, the year will drive growth in some sustainable power projects. In others, new challenges will hinder renewable adoption.
Overall, 2021 will likely be better for renewables than 2020 was. Growth will start to reach pre-pandemic levels, and new use cases will emerge. The road ahead isn’t easy, but it is promising.