7 trends to watch in the energy industry in 2020

(Originally published on Interesting Engineering)

What energy trends should you keep an eye on in 2020? These 7 promise to be some of the most exciting.

Which country uses the most renewable energy?

Many countries around the world are pushing forward with adopting renewable energy technology. But which ones are ‘all in’?

According to sites like clickenergy.com.au, the top 12 “most renewable” countries include:

  • Iceland
  • Sweden
  • Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • The United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Uruguay
  • Denmark
  • China
  • Morocco
  • The USA
  • Kenya

How much renewable energy did the US use in 2019?

The United States is one nation that is investing heavily in renewable energy, and 2019 was no exception. With energy generation and distribution a matter of national security, any means of helping maintain energy independence should be welcomed.

According to the Energy Information Administration, 2019 saw good growth in renewable adoption.

“EIA forecasts that utility-scale renewable fuels, including wind, solar, and hydropower, will collectively produce 18% of U.S. electricity in 2019 and 19% in 2020.” – eia.gov.

Which energy trends should you watch in 2020?

1.     Energy storage and better batteries – The ‘Achilles Heel’

The main ‘Achilles Heel’ of the most popular sources of renewable energy is their lack of reliability. Solar PV isn’t very useful at night and wind power needs the wind to blow.

For this reason, a means of “making hay when the sun shines” is vital to ensure the future of renewables in the energy mix. Much work has already been done to develop better and longer-lasting batteries, as well as other means of storing any energy generated from renewable sources.

2020 should be no exception, with energy industry leaders pushing to develop and promote better energy management and storage. This will also require greater grid flexibility to allow energy firms to balance supply and demand in a highly variable market.

Consumers are becoming ever-more savvy with how they chose energy suppliers, meaning “the invisible hand” of the market should continue to be the main driver for change. Commercial consumers are also pushing hard to source their energy from more diverse and renewable sources.

An integral part of good energy management is viable and reliable storage systems and, by extension, batteries. 2020 should be an exciting year for new developments in this area, with companies like Tesla, Eos, Sonnen, and  Vivint Solar being some to keep an eye on.

Read more here.

TVA webinar reveals 2019 IRP schedule, next steps

The Tennessee Valley Authority hosted a webinar in May to provide transparency to stakeholders and the public at-large on the status of the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan.

The 2019 IRP is expected to provide TVA direction on how to best meet future electricity demand. Building upon the work done in prior plans, TVA has started the 2019 IRP to proactively address the changing utility marketplace.

TVA says this latest IRP will explore various scenarios related to the expansion of distributed energy resources in the Tennessee Valley. TVA also is seeking to improve its understanding of the impact and benefit of system flexibility with increasing renewable and distributed resources.

During the webinar, TVA leaders discussed some of the major themes received during the public comment and scoping period which began February 15 and wrapped up on April 16.

TVA received hundreds of comments during that time frame with topics ranging from:

  • Encouragement of clean energy initiatives, renewable energy, and research and development on DERs
  • Call for special attention to environmental justice/affected environment analyses on impacts to limited income households
  • General interest in energy efficiency measures and energy storage alternatives
  • General input on modeling, metrics/calculations and evaluation criteria
  • General comments on fuel diversification options

TVA will now be compiling a report summarizing the scoping input which will describe how TVA is responding to the input during the development of the IRP and the EIS. This scoping report will also detail scenarios, strategies, and energy resources being carried forward in the IRP and IRP EIS analysis. It’s important to note the scoping report is scheduled to be posted to the IRP website in early July 2018.

During the webinar, TVA also provided a schedule and timeline of future milestones regarding the 2019 IRP.

  • By Summer/Fall of 2018, a series of deep evaluations and analysis work will be completed, as well as some initial modeling will be drafted.
  • By Winter/Spring 2019, pending Valley-wide public meetings TVA will present its initial results and publish a draft EIS and IRP.
  • By Spring/Summer 2019, public meetings will have wrapped up and TVA says it will incorporate that input into the 2019 IRP.
  • By Summer 2019, a preferred plan and direction will be identified with TVA’s board approval and a final publication of the EIS and 2019 IRP will be available.

For a link to TVA’s 2019 IRP website, click here.

TAEBC submits comments to TVA over 2018 rate change proposal

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council submitted the following comments to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) regarding its “2018 rate change draft environmental assessment (draft EA).”

To whom it may concern:

TAEBC champions advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy. We exist to foster the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy technologies, companies and jobs.

Our definition of advanced energy is technology neutral—anything that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure or more efficient is in the tent. At its core, we look to energy innovation as an economic development opportunity.

Distributed generation certainly fits that definition. Specifically, our main audiences are commercial and industrial end users, as well as large entities like municipalities, hospitals, universities, etc. While these audiences all appreciate least-cost power, they also are demanding more control over costs, use and how that power is generated. All of which directly relate to business opportunities for our members and those companies in Tennessee’s advanced energy economy—which contribute $33B to Tennessee’s GDP, employ nearly 325,000 people, include more than 17,000 business entities and pay an average annual wage that exceeds the state average.[1]

Furthermore, TAEBC has seen Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies across the country and Tennessee commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency targets or establish sustainability goals.[2] To remain competitive at recruiting and retaining business and industry, we know the Valley must offer an attractive environment for these companies to meet their goals and deploy advanced energy technologies.

As an example, Facebook selected North Georgia, outside of the TVA territory, for a data center because of its solar energy program offerings.[3]

Therefore, TAEBC suggests the TVA Board take “no action” related to 2018 rate change draft environmental assessment for the following reasons:

  • It is increasingly evident that the businesses of the TVA service area want more advanced energy and distributed energy resources (DER) customer options – businesses, both current and potential recruits, want access to additional capacity for renewable options – the proposed rate change alternatives (B, C, and D) significantly provide uncertainty and disincentives for those existing customers to remain and expand their operations but also are a huge deterrent for new economic development prospects to procure and advance their renewables/sustainability/technology missions in the Valley, thus reducing TVA’s historical competitive advantage of being a low cost option and customer focused utility that, at its core in the TVA Act, is supposed to prioritize technology innovation and advancement, which is TAEBC’s mission and objective.
  • TVA has indicated it wants to increase technological innovation and investment – all actions B, C, and D deter investment from all DERs in the Valley by changing the volumetric rates materially and imposing fixed charges to deter consumer investment in what TVA describes as “uneconomic DER.” TVA does not define “uneconomic DER.”  A transparent valuation of various DER technologies is essential to determining both the environmental and economic impacts of DERs. 
  • The draft EA states that the purpose of the rate change is to better align wholesale rates with the “underlying costs” to serve, but the EA does not disclose, for example, how those costs are divided between grid transmission infrastructure and amortized capital expenditures for generation units. 
  • TVA has not indicated what level of DER adoption presents an issue for cost recovery or grid access – this appears to be a punitive and/or premature charge that is not needed or necessary given the current DER adoption at this time, pending further TVA data or analysis.
  • The draft EA states, “TVA’s current energy prices over-incentivize consumer installation of DER,” and the “imbalance created by uneconomic DER investment means that costs are shifted to consumers throughout the Valley who do not invest in DER.”  Supporting documentation is not provided for either of these assertions. Understanding the inputs to these statements are important factors to determining market conditions, consumer demand (end users), economic impacts, and potential cost-shifting. 

TAEBC believes TVA is an asset to our region. In fact, TAEBC supports TVA in reaching its goal of becoming the energy company of the future and we are committed to partnering with TVA to that end.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments.


Cortney Piper

Vice President, TN Advanced Energy Business Council

606 W Main Street, Suite 250, Knoxville, TN 37902

P: 865-789-2669


Cc TAEBC Board of Directors

Matt Kisber, President
Steve Bares, Secretary

Tom Ballard, Immediate Past President

Jeff Kanel

Trish Starkey

Marc Gibson

Jim DeMouy

Mary Beth Hudson

Chris Bowles


[1] Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report (2015). http://tnadvancedenergy.com/tennessee-advanced-energy-economic-impact-report/

[2] More Companies Set 100% Renewable Energy Goals in 2017, Energy Manager Today (December 2017). https://www.energymanagertoday.com/100-renewable-energy-goals-2017-0173841/

[3] Walton EMC Chosen to Serve New Facebook Data Center with Renewable Energy (March 2018). https://www.morningstar.com/news/pr-news-wire/PRNews_20180307CL32967/walton-emc-chosen-to-serve-new-facebook-data-center-with-renewable-energy.html

TVA now accepting comment on 2019 Integrated Resource Plan

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is beginning work on its 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)—a comprehensive study that provides direction on how to best meet future electricity demand. Building upon the work of prior IRPs, TVA is starting the 2019 IRP process by proactively addressing the changing utility marketplace. Specifically, the 2019 IRP will explore various scenarios related to expansion of distributed energy resources (DER) in the Tennessee Valley. TVA will also seek to improve its understanding of the impact and benefit of system flexibility with increasing renewable and distributed resources.

The 2019 IRP will consider many views of the future to determine how TVA can continue to provide low-cost, reliable electricity, support environmental stewardship, and spur economic development in the Valley over the next 20 years. As part of the IRP decision-making process, and in alignment with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), TVA will analyze potential environmental implications associated with an updated IRP by issuing an environmental impact statement (EIS).

TVA will accept public comment concerning the scope of the EIS and environmental issues that should be addressed by the IRP from February 15-April 16, 2018. Interested parties can provide input via the IRP online public comment form, through email to IRP@TVA.gov, or by sending comments to the contacts below: