By looking closely at the energy sector today, we observe various signs that suggest rapid transformation for future developments in the industry. Governments around the world pass legislation in order to incorporate sustainable energy sources and technologies to enable the efficient use of energy systems. Broadly, energy industry trends can be categorized into three recurring concepts:
- Decarbonization indicates a transition towards a clean and carbon-free economy by integrating and increasing the share of renewable energy sources. A significant rise in the share of electric mobility and higher taxes on the use of fossil fuels are ways to decarbonize.
- Decentralization refers to geographically distributed electricity with a large number of multi-level producers and consumers. Some regions today generate electricity independently, even though they are not yet connected to the distribution networks. Besides, decentralization enables lower energy intensity and provides opportunities for utilizing renewable sources of energy.
- Digitization implies the widespread use of digital machines and devices at all levels of the power system, from production and infrastructure to end-user devices. Energy 4.0, as it is known, enables the industry to implement intelligent energy and power management solutions based on machine to machine and machine-human interactions.
Innovation Map: Top 10 Energy Industry Trends
Covering more than 1.379.000 startups & scaleups globally, we use our proprietary StartUs Insights Discovery Platform to identify innovative applications and solutions that will impact the energy industry in 2021. Our Innovation Analysts conducted exhaustive data-driven research to identify the various innovation trends and technologies emerging in the energy industry. For this research, we analyzed 2.835 startups and emerging companies and present the Top 10 Energy Industry Trends along with 20 highly relevant solutions for each of them.
The Innovation Map below visualizes the major trends that impact the energy sector and showcases two hand-picked startups for each.
Tree Map: The Impact Of Energy Industry Trends
The Tree Map below illustrates the top 10 energy industry trends that will impact companies in 2021. Renewable energy infrastructure development, power generation, storage, and efficiency drives innovations in the sector with numerous emerging companies developing low-cost renewable energy technology. This, in combination with artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of energy, and blockchain account for nearly three-fourths of the energy industry trends. Advancements in electric vehicles (EVs) and charging solutions focus on enabling the transition to zero-emissions transportation by solving for infrastructure-related challenges.
Global Startup Heat Map: Energy Startups & Emerging Companies
For this analysis, we used a data-driven startup scouting approach to identify the most relevant solutions globally. The Global Startup Heat Map below highlights the global distribution of startups & emerging companies that also include the 20 promising examples out of 2.835 relevant energy technology solutions.
Top 10 Energy Industry Trends in 2021
Using renewable energy helps preserve the environment as it produces minimal to zero harmful emissions. The basic principle of using renewables is to extract it from a constant source in the environment, like the sun, the wind, or through geothermal sources. The next important factor is to convert the source into productive electricity or fuels. The range of technologies that cater to the different aspects of generating power or heat from renewables forms one of the biggest energy industry trends. This includes reducing costs for the manufacturing of renewables infrastructure and generating power with higher rates of efficiency.
British startup Odqa develops CSP technology that utilizes an ultra-high temperature solar receiver that enables high-temperature industrial heating processes. The solution unlocks high-temperature power cycles, increases production, and expands the capacity of photovoltaic (PV) power plants. They also offer a novel system layout for CSP plants that reduces the costs of PV plants and improves overall system efficiency.
Echoenergia – Wind Energy Generation
Echoenergia is a Brazilian startup that manufactures wind power generators with an operating capacity of 732 MW. The company develops a technology asset monitoring system called the Operations Control Center (OCC) to enable agile decision making and improve safety. Echoenergia generates renewable energy from several wind complexes and matches individual project capacity to local demand, thus avoiding network congestion and unnecessary energy losses.
Traditionally, electric power systems use a central architecture during construction that brings a new set of challenges to the industry. IoE addresses several of these challenges and offers greater efficiency and optimal design for building energy systems. The Internet of Energy implements intelligent distributed control through energy transactions between its users. This new energy generation paradigm develops a smart grid and improves coordination and optimization in the macro-energy system.
NYDRO – IoE Platform
Argentine startup NYDRO develops an IoE platform that connects energy developers, consumers, and investors. Their solution leverages blockchain technology to build a complete ecosystem by coordinating fundraising, co-ownership, and trading of renewable energy assets. All the system ingredients create modular smart grids and decentralize energy sources. The NYDRO energy management platform supports the monitoring and optimization of energy storage facilities.
Energeia – Energy Efficiency Solutions
Indian startup Energeia provides solutions for monitoring, identifying, financing, and implementing energy efficiency within a shared-savings business model. Energeia’s smart meters collect energy data using gateway devices and later send it to an online platform that analyzes this data, ultimately resulting in energy savings. The analytical engine generates consumption trends and predicts potential energy management improvements that it unlocks by changes in the grid process.
Today’s technologies provide a sufficient level of generation, however, they lack cost-effective energy storage solutions. Energy storage enables stable pricing by proactively managing demand from consumers. By having the opportunity to purchase energy for future use, consumers potentially stock it up during ideal conditions. This accumulated energy later helps in reducing the grid loads during peak times, while prosumers earn more as buying energy becomes expensive.
Energy Vault – Long Duration Utility-Scale Energy Storage
Swiss startup Energy Vault develops energy storage technology that delivers around-the-clock baseload power from intermittent renewable energy sources, like solar and wind. Energy Vault’s ready-to-deploy solution is inspired by pumped-storage plants that rely on gravity and the movement of water to generate power. The elevation storage system is ideally suited for long-duration storage, and also provides faster response times.
STOREH Energy Storage – Hydrogen On Demand System
Italian startup STOREH Energy Storage Technologies builds energy storage devices to solve the challenges arising from intermittent production and constant consumption of power. Their hydrogen on-demand (HOD) system produces hydrogen without requiring compressors and tanks. Moreover, the company’s storage solution uses natural non-polluting materials such as zinc and water.
Blockchain technology intends to unite all energy stakeholders under a single decentralized network. Electricity producers, distribution network operators, metering operators, providers of financial services, and traders potentially benefit from utilizing smart contracts. These contracts ensure that all energy-related transactions pass through a secure and immutable network, thus eliminating potential losses. Blockchain also holds the potential for achieving some degree of equality between energy producers and consumers by making electricity affordable for more people.
Blok-Z – Secure Green Energy Contracts
Turkish startup Blok-Z uses blockchain technology that enables anyone to be an energy market player with access to economical, transparent, and traceable green electricity. The Blok-Z software securely records ownership and consumption of electricity to automate settlement, auditing, and back-office processes.
Enosi – Community Energy Trading
Australian startup Enosi accelerates direct access to renewable energy services using its blockchain platform. The Enosi Protocol helps bypass bureaucratic processes that inhibit the natural expansion of distributed generation. Enosi’s solution empowers community energy trading without requiring microgrids or incumbent grid partners.
Some visions of the energy system in the future mainly revolves around distributed energy resources (DERs) that are monitored by a combination of AI and IoT. Together with blockchain and a growing number of energy prosumers, these components comprise energy-as-a-service solutions. EaaS allows for the transition from selling electricity to selling services such as consumption management, optimization of production, and tracking consumption. The presence of local energy sources and storage options accelerate energy efficiency across the grid while providing access to more people.
KPay – Energy Trading Platform
Indian startup KPay builds EaaS platforms that integrate with any electric device to enable energy trading. Their platform employs a pay-as-you-go model for solar, household appliances, pumps, and farming equipment. Three payment models – pay-per-use, pay-per-time, and pay-per-amp, provide customers with the flexibility to adjust their energy usage by factoring in the various benefits of each model.
Iota – AI-Powered Building Energy Services
The US-based startup Iota provides EaaS that includes their BrightAI smart building software in combination with a myriad of energy conservation measures. The solution optimizes energy management that includes lighting, HVAC, demand response, and renewable energy utilization. This EaaS approach simplifies the process of implementing an optimization strategy and reduces risk by guaranteeing savings. Moreover, the technology works independently of the analytics & communications platform that helps in reducing capital investments.
Distributed energy resources (DERs) enable the generation of electricity or heat at the place of its consumption. The absence of a network eliminates the loss and cost of energy transmission. This implies the presence of many consumers who produce energy for their own needs, directing their surplus to the common network. Within the framework of this concept, small and medium power generation units act as distributed energy generators. Further, it reduces energy production costs and makes optimum use of existing energy generation capacity.
Lumidyne Consulting – Energy Data Modeling
The US-based startup Lumidyne Consulting applies advanced data modeling techniques with a particular focus on distributed energy resources. The company solution SPIDER predicts DERs adoption and impact on energy demand to facilitate the planning of energy distribution. The system also integrates various DERs into a single spatial and temporal forecast model to manage risk and uncertainty.
Urban Energy – Community-Based DERs
The US-based startup Urban Energy develops distributed generation by utilizing building rooftops or community solar gardens for residents in New York City. The company provides a no-cost survey of the property to identify potential DERs opportunities. Their customizable systems integrate multiple distributed technologies such as battery storage and EV charging to maximize the underutilized space.
7. Demand Side Management (DSM)
DSM refers to the rationalization of demand to ensure compliance with the current or predicted capabilities of a power system. Rationalization consists of two main components – demand management and energy efficiency. The management of demand for electricity usually refers to the shifting of consumption from peak to off-peak periods. Simultaneously, energy efficiency implies a continuous reduction in electricity consumption by introducing efficient consumption equipment or processes.
Distributed Energy – Energy Asset Management
British startup Distributed Energy focuses on technologies that enable renewable energy adoption and efficiency. The company develops DSM solutions to manage small and medium-size businesses’ power requirements. Their smart energy system provides easily accessible data on the energy usage of business assets and optimizes data collection across a range of machinery and assets.
SCUBIC – Energy Efficiency Platform
Portuguese startup SCUBIC develops an energy efficiency platform that acts as a pathway to demand-side management. The startup focuses on water networks through an integrated smart platform that improves hydropower asset management. The platform provides forecasting techniques, network simulation, and smart advisory tools to enable reductions in operating costs. In addition, it also enhances security by actively managing and assessing the network’s risks and vulnerabilities.
8. Quantum Computing (QC)
Quantum computing in the energy sector focuses on developing new energy solutions, improving energy efficiency, and reducing the use of greenhouse gases. The scale and complexity of challenges facing the energy sector go beyond modern technology and are well suited for testing on quantum ones. Recent scientific studies reveal the advantage of using quantum computing platforms to solve seemingly mundane problems. For example, allocating space for developing energy infrastructure or in committing quantity or units of electricity generation.
JoS Quantum – Cloud-Based Asset Management
German startup JoS Quantum develops cloud-based software solutions for energy asset management. The quantum-enabled algorithms solve complex issues for the energy sector involving risk analysis, portfolio optimization, and machine learning (ML)-powered enhancements. The company also provides research services to explore the potentials of quantum computing and quantum-inspired algorithms in the energy sector.
QC Ware – Optimization Of Energy Utilization
The US-based startup QC Ware provides quantum computing solutions for optimizing energy utilization. Optimization and ML applications enable energy fault diagnosis, precise energy prediction, effective demand management, as well as asset risk analysis. The QC platform classifies data points using input datasets to carry out supervised learning. Later, it proceeds to execute these models on cloud-based simulators.
V2G is a system in which EVs sell energy in response to demand either by returning electricity to the grid or by cutting their charge rate. If EV batteries later return energy to the grid through charging stations, it is possible to use it as an energy storage asset. Charging EVs for lower costs during weak demand supports the network during peak loads. These flexible and accessible buffers potentially reduce the hours of a power outage.
Fuergy – Virtual Energy Networks
Slovak startup Fuergy develops virtual energy networks of existing energy grids to achieve simultaneous energy balance using AI-powered energy sharing systems. The company creates superchargers suitable for supporting the existing grid infrastructure. They provide electric vehicle charging and V2G functionalities to reduce energy costs and prolong battery life. Their solution uses the battery capacity of electric vehicles, connected to the grid, to improve energy variability and costs for building and vehicle owners alike.
Auto Motive Power – Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions
The US-based Auto Motive Power creates hardware and software solutions for electric vehicle charging. Their ampV2G software system enables EVs to charge, manage charging based on time or rate, and export electrical energy stored in the EV battery back to the local distribution network. This charging software runs on any operating system, including non-Linux, as it is optimized to run in small real-time microcontrollers.
10. Power-to-X (PtX)
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy efficiency and using renewable energy sources are playing an increasingly important role worldwide. Power-to-X technologies for electricity conversion, energy storage, and reconversion pathways see increasing interest from the industry. Startups and emerging PtX technologies convert energy and carbon dioxide (CO2) into new products and materials that are used for several other purposes.
Ineratec – Power To Liquid
Swiss startup Ineratec provides customizable applications of gas-to-liquid, power-to-gas, and power-to-liquid technologies. Their gas-to-liquid process converts fossil fuel emissions and renewable methane-containing gases into synthetic hydrocarbons and fuels. Their power-to-gas system produces synthetic natural gas from regenerative hydrogen, carbon dioxide, as well as carbon monoxide. Additionally, their power-to-liquid solution converts renewable electricity and carbon dioxide into liquid fuels and other chemicals.
SeeO2 Energy – Gas To Fuel
Canadian startup SeeO2 Energy helps transform greenhouse gases (GHG) into assets by developing reversible fuel-cell technology. They convert synthetic gas, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide into alternative products like natural gas, methanol, ammonia, and synthetic liquid fuels. Besides, their technology enables the conversion of CO2 into marketable and clean value-added fuels and chemicals.
What Does This Mean For Energy Companies?
The energy sector faces increasing pressure from various stakeholders, from consumers to utility-scale power plants, to reduce the cost of renewables while simultaneously improving the adoption rate of renewable energy. Startups and emerging companies develop a range of solutions that cater to both energy producers, consumers, as well as prosumers. Technologies to reduce the cost of solar and wind, increase the capacity of energy storage, and improve the efficiency of batteries generates interest and investment to develop novel technologies. In addition, by implementing AI, blockchain, machine learning, and the internet of energy techniques transform the processes and business models currently employed in the energy sector.
The innovation areas outlined in this research on 10 Energy Industry Trends scratch the surface of what we found during our analysis. Renewable energy sources, energy asset management, smart energy meters, energy-as-a-service solutions, and electrification of vehicles are all areas bound to significantly impact energy companies one way or the other. Identifying new opportunities and emerging technologies to implement into your business early on goes a long way in gaining a competitive advantage and becoming an industry leader.