Consulting firm ScottMadden recently polled energy professionals via its website asking, “Which clean technology will have the biggest impact over the next five years?” Energy efficiency and demand management ranked first, receiving more than 40 percent of the 44 responses. Solar energy ranked second and accounted for more than 30 percent of the responses.
Energy efficiency measures are being adopted by customers as the quantity and quality of products continue to improve, says ScottMadden. In addition to consumer adoption, the notion that energy efficiency as the fifth fuel is gaining traction with electric and gas utilities. Utility energy efficiency expenditures are projected to double between 2010 and 2025, representing a $9.5 billion in expenditures in 2025, according to the consultants. However, continued growth will depend on the ability of utilities to recover costs through innovative regulatory structures.
Solar energy is the second prominent technology in the survey. The prices of solar PV panels have declined considerably over the last decade and now sell for less than $1 per watt, says ScottMadden. Meanwhile, average installation costs dropped 24 percent in the last year from $4.45 per watt to $3.37 per watt. Solar has been supported by an attractive policy environment that includes solar provisions in state renewable energy portfolio standards, favorable net metering policies, and authorization of third-party sales in multiple states. As a result, the cumulative capacity of solar PV grew 85 percent in 2012 and is projected to double every two years until changes in the investment tax credit in 2017.