5 Key Trends for the Future of Clean Energy

In November 2015, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC), a team of private investors, announced a multi-billion dollar fund to “get energy technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace.” The scope of the initiative, including the marketplace, is relevant: development and demonstration of new-energy technologies are no guarantee for successful commercial deployment.

Three key reasons contribute to the challenge of commercializing new-energy technologies:

Time-to-bankability: Finalizing all stages of bankability reviews requires months and years as opposed to weeks and days in other areas of high technology. At-scale data collection, often for more than 12 months, is a key element to achieve product certification and meet requirements of independent engineering reviews. These certifications and reviews are major inputs to achieve bankability, a critical commercialization milestone for most energy technologies. Finalizing all stages of technology, supply chain, performance and reliability reviews can take years.

Capital intensity: Simulation, testing, and developing at-scale demonstration projects is already capital intensive. But in order to achieve up to 20-year lifetime requirements for large-scale energy technology deployments, many more requirements have to be met. For example, accelerated life-time testing of components and systems are adding to the commercial-development cost. Moreover, capex layout for building tools, fixtures, and product can be substantial.

Ecosystem development: Investors and entrepreneurs in energy technology need to develop an ecosystem from day one, consisting of early-adopter customers, partners from the financial industries for financing and from the insurance industries for risk reduction, partners in product development and supply chain, and partners in independent engineering and certification. Building trust over the course of development and demonstration periods is critical to have strong partners at the inflection point of commercialization.

Against these challenges, 2015 was a landmark year with five key trends that have the potential to accelerate the commercialization of energy technology for the future:

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