Clean-tech buzzwords of 2013

RenewablesEvery year it seems, we hear a new set of words to describe a particular event, movement, or industry. We call these, “buzzwords,” and here is our list of buzzwords for clean energy in 2013:
The term “resiliency” first rose to fame after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Clearly one of the most overused words of 2013, it has become a catchall for all things relating to strengthening infrastructure.
For solar energy, this means more solar grids and less reliance on the traditional forms of electric generation and a smarter electrical grid in general.
We stress this concept at Solar Components by offering the JOOS Orange so people can strengthen their own personal electric grid and be prepared in the event of a power outage or natural disaster.
This is a relatively new concept in the world of solar energy but in 2013, more companies began the process of securitization by forming asset-backed securities. In November, SolarCity announced the first offering ever of securitized solar for distributed PV.
With the lack of long-term data and standardization, the process of securitization is a slow one, and one that will take years to gain traction. We won’t have energy efficiency securitization by 2014, but it’s definitely on its way.
Change management
Older people in the utilities sector will tell you one of the hardest parts of changing over to a new source of power is change management. Verizon spent billions of dollars beefing up its infrastructure and changing over to a fiber optic based network and like Verizon, the utility industry will need to do the same thing with these new modes of electricity generation. With solar, wind, hydro, and other clean energy sources, change management has been a long road and we still have a long ways to go.
Intelligent efficiency
We all want to save energy, after all, it lowers our electric bill and makes us feel good knowing we’re helping to keep the cost of electricity down and put less stress on the electric grid. After a while though, the message begins to fall flat.
“With dramatic advances in web-based monitoring, real-time data analytics and utilities using peak pricing, that hidden resource is now becoming something tangible: an asset that companies can measure, manage, procure and sell,” writes Stephen Lacey. Efficiency and demand-side management are starting to merge, both in our biggest buildings and in our homes.
Like the term “resiliency,” “decentralization” is often used in the same speech about the importance of compartmentalizing and strengthening our means of electric distribution.
Enter the world of microgrids: Microgrids are mostly limited to neighborhood schools, universities (UC David, for example), and DOD projects, to name a few, but that is beginning to change.
Microgrids are smaller grids that can operate on their own, while still being tied into the larger grids on a regular basis. This type of technology allows schools to stay open and function when the power goes out, and the military and government agencies to function in the event of a natural disaster.
Over in the solar world, there is a movement toward using smaller inverters or trackers to reduce the effect of the failure of a single unit, said MJ Shiao, solar market senior analyst with GTM Research. This is driving the push for commercial 3-phase string inverters in the U.S. and string inverters in large-scale solar globally. “We’ll continue to see this theme catch on in 2014,” said Shiao, “especially in the power electronics and moving pieces in solar projects.”
Utility death spiral
There is no sugar-coating what’s happening in the utility industry. Many executives would say that we all still need warm showers and cold beer, and most of us will need the grid for those energy needs in the foreseeable future. But who is left paying for an updated grid is certainly up for debate, and there is a real possibility that some utilities — perhaps hamstrung by sloth-like regulators — will simply be left holding the wires.
Financial innovation
Securitization, one of the buzzwords of 2013, is just one financial innovation that has come to the clean energy market.
Solar leasing is already changing the market at a significant rate, while REITs (real estate investment trusts) and MLPs (master limited partnerships) are a couple more more examples of investment vehicles that will help renewable energy even more.
“The clean energy sector has traditionally been defined by technological breakthroughs,” writes Stephen Lacey. “But now that technologies have matured to a level where investors feel comfortable, financial breakthroughs may just be the most important market driver.”
Grid edge
Large-scale transmission projects are changing the way we produce and use energy. Distributed generation, primarily rooftop PV, is probably the most obvious current disruptor, but energy storage, electric vehicles, microgrids and even more flavors of demand response are coming down the road.
Net metering
A buzzword and hot-button issue all in one, is the term “net metering.” Net metering requires some regulated utilities to reimburse customers at retail rates for the solar energy they send to the grid from their rooftop PV’s and microgrids. The battle rages on in several states across the U.S.
While some states are more progressive with this idea, like Arizona and California for example, with its AB 327 bill that kept net metering in place, other states like Texas, don’t even consider it.
The decisions in Arizona and California will influence the outcome in other states in 2014 and beyond but be prepared for a long, hard fought battle to get there.
A “prosumer” is generally considered someone who is both a producer and consumer of electricity, usually in the form of having some sort of solar PV on the roof of their homes or business.
As solar energy generation becomes more affordable for prosumers over the next few years, expect to see more PV systems being installed on people’s rooftops, carports, and yards.
We hope you enjoyed reading about some of the clean-energy buzzwords of 2013. Have a clean-energy buzzword we didn’t share on our list? Email it to us at and we may include it in another article!

Comments are closed.