Alex Morgan, Wind Energy Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, will be presenting BNEF’s New Energy Outlook for 2017 and the vision for the electricity grid of the future at this year’s CanWEA Annual Conference and Exhibition. Alex’s presentation will take place during the opening plenary session and will follow the welcome remarks from Cory Basil and Robert Hornung.
We spoke to Alex about the conference, the New Energy Outlook that she’ll be presenting on and the technological and market innovations that she is most excited about for the future of wind energy.
In the opening session at the conference, you’re going to be presenting BNEF’s New Energy Outlook 2017 and vision for the global electricity grid. Can you tell us a little bit about what audience members can expect from that talk?
We have sixty to seventy analysts that work on the New Energy Outlook each year. This outlook models where energy demand is not yet met and then preferentially deploys the least-cost technology options to meet this. In Canada, we find that installed capacity grows 35% between now and 2040 and that of the new capacity additions, 80% will be renewables or hydro. What this means for onshore wind is we expect 31GW of cumulative capacity to be connected to the grid by 2040.
There are a few major factors that are shaping the forecast today that fall into short-term and long-term categories.
In the short-term:
- Alberta’s coal retirement plan and the renewable energy program that is being deployed
- Ontario’s nuclear refurbishment program
In the long-term:
- Cost declines in wind, solar and storage (we’re expecting to see a 37% cost decline in wind between now and 2040)
- Rising carbon and fuel costs and a weaker demand overall
I’ll be sharing more about what shapes the New Energy Outlook for 2017 during my presentation but those are some of the key highlights.
As far as the electricity grid of the future, I’m excited about two key areas: the industrial Internet of things (IIoT) and machine learning. From my perspective, connecting machines, gathering data and applying analytical tools will help shape the energy industry and from this, I anticipate significant implications for the wind industry specifically.
One example is ROMO Wind’s iSpin platform, which places sensors directly on hubs at the front of turbines, allowing operators to analyze aggregated data, determine the best possible case for positioning, then adjust turbines to optimize performance.
GE, as well as other players, has noted that it expects IoT will help improve renewable energy forecasting considerably. GE anticipates a 94% accuracy rate, up from the current rate of 88%.
What do you think are the top 1-2 technological and market innovations that will become a reality for wind and other renewable energy sources?
I’ve mentioned IIoT and machine learning but I’d like to take a moment to talk a bit more about machine learning specifically. It’s pretty interesting when you think about the fact that more than half of wind turbine downtime can be due to unplanned maintenance. Having a turbine down can be extremely costly for an operator. Machine learning, and algorithmic learning, can be used for fault detection, which could save the operator from unnecessary downtime.
Imagine, if you will, that a drone is sent up in the air to photograph blades on a turbine. Then, the photographs are analyzed by a computer to detect defects. This could allow an operator to look for maintenance issues before they become a major problem, thus resulting in less downtime.
Another example, pulled from machine learning, would be sifting through existing data that has been collected to spot abnormalities well before they become an issue for other operators. Right now we rely on a physical body to go through that data and see the abnormality in the moment whereas we could get a machine involved to speed up the process.
Outside of that, we are paying close attention to market innovations such as offtake, specifically for the corporate sector. We expect that more market innovation could be required here to not just draw in the top 20 corporates but also the tier below that (ie, selling to the top 2000 corporates). This is important especially as energy demand across a number of key markets is flat lining or even declining.
What’s happening right now in the wind industry that has you / others excited for the future?
In terms of wind industry in Canada, Alberta’s REP program will be extremely interesting to follow. It’ll be exciting to see what type of capacity is installed, as well as what the structure of the new capacity market will be.
On a broader perspective outside of these programs, we actually already expect wind to surpass fossil fuel build because of the low cost of wind. Two results from NEO exemplify this:
- Wind will surpass gas as the second largest source of energy in 2026 (second only to hydro)
- New wind build in high resource areas will be cheaper than running existing coal power plants in 2025
It’s an exciting time to be in wind and I’m thrilled to see where the industry goes from here.
What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
I’m definitely looking forward to my presentation but I’m also excited to reconnect with old friends, colleagues and our clients in Canada.
CanWEA is such a wonderful conference. It’s a nice event with all the right people in the right rooms in a great setting. You can’t ask for more than that.
Looking for more insight into the strategic opportunities in Canada’s energy markets?
CanWEA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition takes place October 3-5, 2017 in Montreal, QC Canada. Our conference is loaded with expert speakers discussing the industry’s opportunities and challenges. Register today.
Alex Morgan is the lead North America wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. She covers market research, focusing on the economics, policy, and strategic dynamics of the sector. Alex specializes in short- and long-term forecasts and the integration of wind on the grid. Prior to joining BNEF, Alex was a fellow at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Alex holds an MPhil from University of Cambridge and a BA from Harvard University in Earth Sciences and Environmental Engineering.