San Francisco-based Antenna Group, a Beckerman company, is the nation’s largest energy technology communications firm, representing companies across sectors including renewable energy, energy efficiency, alternative fuels, energy storage, finance, waste management and water. Antenna Group’s top 10 headline grabbers for 2014 are drawn from the company’s experience with more than 40 clients in these sectors, as well as conversations with analysts, media and other industry influencers.
“Our diverse roster of market-disrupting clients gives us unique insight into the energy technology trends that will shape our world in the year to come,” said Keith Zakheim, Antenna Group’s CEO. “Last year, we correctly predicted a number of sustainable technologies and services that entered mainstream in 2013. We look forward to seeing this new round of emerging technologies secure a firm foothold in the energy marketplace.”
“Each day, the Antenna team works to elevate emerging energies and clean technologies to underscore economic viability and support widespread acceptance,” added Anna Cahill Leonard, Antenna Group’s president. “This list of energy technology trends charts the technologies of tomorrow. We look forward to watching these conversations progress throughout 2014.”
Four out of Antenna’s top 10 trends take place in the solar sector, spurred by solar’s record-breaking year of growth. According to a recent report by the Solar Energy Industry Association and GTM Research, Q3 was the largest quarter ever for residential solar installations – and the second largest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar market. Driven by solar PV module price reductions, the rising cost of grid-tied electricity and the growth of innovative financing models, the nation’s solar PV capacity could rise five-fold to 50 gigawatts or more by 2017, according to a recent report from Deutsche Bank.
Other important trends focus on making better use of existing resources, including by transforming wasted flare gas into valuable gasoline; recycling electronic components, rubber and plastic into new products; and implementing new types of financing for sustainable technologies.
Here are Antenna’s top 10 energy technology headline grabbers for 2014:
1. Soaring solar securitization. Solar securitization was off to the races at the end of 2013 with the announcement by SolarCity of a $54.4 million solar asset-backed financing package. The deal, which pooled solar contracts from more than 5,000 installations, represents the first time that securitization, or the practice of pooling disparate sources of debt and selling the package to investors, has been applied to solar. Such deals accelerate solar adoption by increasing access to capital; expect more in 2014.
2. Solar Big Data, at last. The lack of financial, technical and operational performance data on solar PV systems has held back banks, insurers, credit rating agencies and utilities from investing in solar. Big Data has transformed the tech world, and 2014 will be the year it truly changes the trajectory of the solar industry. Platforms for aggregating and analyzing performance information from diverse sources are helping to accelerate investment in solar PV portfolios and speeding the securitization of solar.
3. Attacking gas waste. Around the world, billions of cubic meters of natural gas are wasted annually, typically as a byproduct of oil extraction. Gas-to-liquids (GTL) technologies can reduce flaring and produce gasoline at the same time, and as these technologies mature, we expect to see them gain ground in 2014.
4. Micro-hybrids hit the gas. Micro-hybrids automatically shut down a car engine to reduce idling time. They’ve been widely adopted in Europe and China, but not in the United States because more highway driving) make fuel efficiency less urgent need and because the technology is harder to install on automatic transmissions. With the proliferation of clean car standards and better battery technologies, look for the microhybrid market to grow to one in four cars by 2025.
5. Balance of systems shakeout. Much like the module market of years past, balance of system (BOS) companies are now clamoring to demonstrate differentiation through cost and performance benefits. In a crowded market, 2014 should bring attrition and consolidation, with lower prices than ever to continue solar’s extraordinary growth. Watch for developers and module manufacturers to start gobbling up some of the strongest BOS players to strengthen their own offerings.
6. Revisiting solar manufacturing. When solar module prices bottomed out faster than anyone expected, manufacturers were suddenly operating on minuscule margins. Now, after several years of battening the hatches and riding out the storm, manufacturers are back on the hunt for ways to not just survive, but to thrive. Advancements in raw materials — namely silicon — and low cap-ex/fabless manufacturing techniques are reentering the discussion as ways to improve bottom lines without compromising on performance.
7. PACE financing takes flight. After a few hiccups, the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing model is gaining momentum. This model enables property owners to finance energy-related upgrades — from double-paned windows to HVAC systems to solar PV installations – with no upfront costs, repaid through property taxes. Piggybacking off the successes of programs in California, Florida and Connecticut, a host of new PACE districts are scheduled to come online in 2014.
8. Voluntary green power markets boom. There’s no shortage of support for renewable energy in the United States, but not everyone can install a solar or wind generation system. More Americans are choosing alternative methods of supporting clean power, from buying community solar to purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory documented a 36 percent increase in renewable energy sales through these voluntary green power markets between 2010 and 2012. With the rise of innovative financing packages, this sector will continue accelerating in years to come.
9. Transforming trash into treasure. We’re seeing a new breed of recycling companies that remove perceived waste from landfills and revert them into high-tech, high-value applications. Companies are offering cash for mobile phones; turning end-of-life tires into raw materials for new tires, plastic goods and industrial applications; and transforming used juice cartons into resins for consumer goods. With raw material prices on the rise, expect a strong mainstream push in 2014.
10. The renaissance of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). Targeted, cost-effective applications are fueling CSP’s comeback. CSP developers are increasingly rolling out industrial applications for mining, desalination and enhanced oil recovery (EOR), where the economic benefit is unquestionable. The opportunities are enormous: just solar EOR, whereby solar heat is used to generate steam that increases the amount of crude oil extracted from an oil field, is estimated to be a $113 billion global market.
About Antenna Group
Antenna Group, a Beckerman company, is a leading strategic communications agency delivering public relations and integrated marketing services to entrepreneurial and innovative organizations in technology sectors ranging from energy to mobile communications and enterprise software/hardware technology and services. Headquartered in San Francisco, Antenna Group has offices in the Washington, D.C., and the New York metro areas. For more information, please visit www.antennagroup.com.