It’s been a banner year for renewable energy. COP21 produced an accord, signed by 188 countries, committing to cap temperature rise at 2 degrees C. Even as the U.S. Clean Power Plan sits at the mercy of the courts, renewable prices continue to plummet and technologies grow ever-more cost competitive with conventional. As a result, many expect that the US will reach the CPP goals with or without ratification of the plan.

 

Our energy landscape is evolving but, as we pat ourselves on the back for a promising year, we should remain aware of reality of our climate dilemma. Last month, we officially passed the 400 mark, a symbolic yet alarming milestone of 400 ppm of C02 in our atmosphere. It was not long ago that this was seen as a high-water mark — a level that we would strive to stay under.

 

Amidst our self-congratulations, here we are. The evolution of energy is inevitable and well underway, but is it happening fast enough? Investor Jeremy Grantham recently pointed out that, amidst our flurry of advances in renewable energy generation, we are failing to grasp the severity of the climate problem. He stated that, at our current rate of evolution, it’s going to be “quite a horse race” to get our climate back in check.

 

With such dire consequences and renewables approaching cost competitiveness, the question is often asked: why are we getting a slow-moving evolution and not an energy revolution? The answer, thus far, has been that a revolution is too much work — a real revolution will require an overhaul in how we think about all facets of energy, not just how we create it.  

 

While the cost and efficiency of renewable generation continues to improve, these technologies must compete with fossil fuels in a system created for the latter. Transportation and distribution grids were engineered for centralized, on-demand energy generation. The structure’s lack of nimbleness is the limiting factor in the push for renewable penetration. This home field advantage will keep fossil fuels relevant (and CO2 emissions climbing) far longer than they would be in an energy grid designed today.

 

The good news is that both industry and regulators seem to have identified the grid as the final tower to topple in a true energy revolution. This past week, the U.S. Department of Energy released a final rule, amending regulations in order to simplify the siting of new transmission lines, thus facilitating a change in transmission infrastructure. This amendment had the backing of the renewable industries, as it represents the clearing of obstacle to more widespread renewable adoption.

 

If you thought the renewable movement was moving fast before, hold onto your hat as grid transformation ushers in a new area of energy thinking. Technologies like “smart poles” through blockchain technology will digitize the transmission process. Major utilities are already focusing their innovation efforts towards blockchain. Investment lifecycle management systems will also play a role in accelerating the return on renewable energy projects, ramping up our capacity to hit true energy revolution.  

To learn more about blockchain and other technologies that are moving the energy revolution, catch our webinar with Intel and RWE on Engerati.