The rise of renewable energy and electric vehicles will lead to significant changes the energy system has not seen in more than a century – bringing both new challenges and new opportunities. Our annual report, “Foresight 2021: Top Emerging Technologies to Watch,” identifies and ranks 12 key technologies that will reshape the world. In addition to highlighting the 12 key overall technologies, for the first time ever, this year’s report ranks the top five technologies across the energy industry.
To kick off 2021, we’re taking a closer look at the energy sector and reviewing what topics emerged and which technologies rose to the top during an event-filled year in the energy transition.
- Green Hydrogen: As the energy system transitions to renewables, green hydrogen plays a key role in creating a new global bulk energy carrier and can serve as both an energy and feedstock source for industrial processes.
- Direct Air Capture: Removing CO2 directly from the air is still years from widespread adoption but will emerge as a valuable tool for organizations needing to offset scope 3 emissions.
- Long-Duration Energy Storage: The growing share of intermittent renewables in the electricity mix will require grid operators to store increasing amounts of excess renewable electricity for longer periods of time.
- Fuel Cells: Hand in hand with green hydrogen, fuel cells enable the adoption of zero-carbon energy across the energy system and can eliminate emissions in hard-to-decarbonize sectors like long-haul trucking.
- Battery Recycling: As batteries become more ubiquitous due to vehicle electrification, recycling is essential to addressing concerns about waste, lifetime emissions, and material shortages.
Unlike the fast-paced digital technologies disrupting many facets of everyday life, the energy industry is a slow-moving behemoth that may take decades to fully transform. However, companies no longer have the luxury of time, as climate policies continue to put pressure on the major industry players to mitigate their contributions to emissions and eventually shift toward carbon-neutral operations.