August 10, 2023

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Trends for Electrical Contractors


7 Min. Read

The latest energy efficiency trends are continuously shaping electrification and the installation process for these newer and rapidly evolving technologies. Electrical contractors must stay current on all those technologies and their associated standards.

Electrification technologies increase efficiency and reduce carbon emissions but may also increase electric consumption from the grid, and the distribution of energy usage between industries varies. In fact, nearly 74% of the current draw on the electrical grid is from commercial and residential buildings.

Energy efficiency trends are advancing across all fronts. The electrical grid is becoming the foremost focus of the energy transition and has been identified as the weakest link amongst electrification technology in 2023. Focus on the grid and our electrical infrastructure is paramount to keeping up as another technology continues to advance.

Clean energy is available that could cover nearly 80% of electrical consumption but continue to idle, awaiting interconnection between systems.

2023 Electrification Trends

Electrical contractors must enter homes and businesses with in-depth knowledge of rising electrification technologies, communications between those systems, smart options, and energy efficiency standards. Trends that are expected to make substantial impacts as of 2023 are:

  • Solar and photovoltaics
  • A.I. and smart technologies
  • Batteries and energy storage systems
  • Clean energy sources

Knowledgeable electrical contractors can build value to their service calls by educating consumers on ways to lessen the load and strengthen the grid while also giving their customers an increased return on investment (ROI).

Solar and Photovoltaics

Solar companies are aiming to integrate technologies while minimizing land usage and maximizing space for procured land. In order to reach goals set by the net zero emissions by 2050 scenario (NZE), solar is estimated to be nearly 40% of all electrical production.

Advancements in floatovoltaics and agrivoltaics are trending towards making that possible.

Utilizing Water Resources

Floatovoltaics, or floating solar panels, are relatively new and currently makeup just 2% of solar installations annually in the United States. Researchers estimate that if even 10% of all the hydropower reservoirs around the globe were covered with floating solar panels, they would produce as much power as fossil fuel energy plants.

The benefits of utilizing solar panels on bodies of water are greater than land-based solar panels. The installation comes at a lower cost on multiple fronts as the water naturally acts as a cooling agent for the panels, which subsequently increases electricity generation by substantial margins.

Initial installation costs are lower without the need to clear and treat the land, and panels can even aid in reducing evaporation rates by blocking sunlight from reaching the surface.

The lasting effects on the environment are one of the major unknowns, but these panels can reduce harmful algal blossoms by cutting off the solar supply these toxic algae and bacteria require.

Electrical contractors would have to adapt protocols for installation and safety practices due to the method and nature of these arrays.

Utilizing Land Resources

Agrivoltaics will be integral in amassing enough power to reach that 40% margin, as agriculture takes up 43% of the contiguous U.S. surface area. A mere 0.5% of the land will need to be utilized for solar development by 2050 to reach clean energy standards, and furthering the trend of installation on farms is of benefit to the landowners, well beyond the production of energy.

Crops can benefit from the shade these panels create through a reduction in harsh, direct sunlight. Less sunlight also allows for increased water retention in the crops, creating a cooler atmosphere. Avoiding overgrowth with livestock grazing patterns further reduces fuel and maintenance costs for farmers while keeping the panels from being shadowed by overgrowth.

These are all concepts that electrical contractors should be able to understand, explain, and implement as these trends grow.

A.I. and Smart Technologies

The implementation of smart technology and automated decision-making is helping maximize electricity productivity, storage, and distribution. Smart technology, such as smart panels, can optimize when individual components, devices, or appliances draw on the electrical system to store energy in batteries or charge vehicles during off-peak hours to the benefit of both the electrical grid to reduce strain and the consumer to reduce cost per kWh.

Automation of utilities through smart grid technology will actively reduce the downtime of energy distribution in cases of inclement weather and peak usage. The smart grid opens two-way communication between the grid and individual consumer systems, where the path would otherwise be one-way. As a result of this enhanced system communication, the energy distribution is more accurately predicted, and less energy goes to waste.

Each cog in the clean energy machine that becomes automated lessens the unnecessary draw of energy while optimizing performance. Integrating systems that track weather patterns, for instance, allows systems to store additional energy in batteries instead of sending that power back to the grid. Lessening even minor energy loss adds up drastically over time.

Nearly all electrification technologies are trending to become smart technologies to automate many of the optimization processes, so it is important to understand how to implement these technologies and why they are important.

Batteries and Energy Storage Systems

The electric vehicle (EV) industry is incorporating advancements in the vehicles and infrastructure used to maintain them. The latest energy efficiency trends include the ability to use vehicles for net metering and backup power for homes. Net metering is one of the largest contributors to ROI for electrification technologies. Solar, batteries, and EVs can all store and supply power back to the electrical grid if transmission lines have been established and the products have those features.

Tom Moloughney’s State of Charge channel is a great resource for all things EVs and EV chargers as he demonstrates the features and settings that EVs have for executing these processes in-home. Fleets and homeowners can take part in demand response through the bidirectional capabilities of EVs plus battery storage to supplement the grid during peak hours to reduce the electrical burden or during outages to provide emergency power.

Pumped storage hydropower and compressed air technologies are trending battery-free energy options for homes and businesses. Capacitors and supercapacitors yield potential hazards as they can overheat and explode, harming communities, businesses, property,and the environment while discharging. Water reservoirs at differing altitudes can move water from one level to another, creating a safer discharge. This acts as a massive battery that can still meet large energy demands without the necessity of a battery storage system and other associated technologies.

Start-ups like Green-Y Energy and MGA Thermal are zero-emission products entering the market. These devices act as energy storage while simultaneously serving other functions, such as heating and cooling. Technologies such as high-efficiency heat pumps that earn the ENERGY STAR label are in growing demand.

Through 2050, as the need for clean energy rises, energy-efficient products and solutions will continue to grow. Electrical contractors have to follow these trends to make sure they are able to implement the latest technology.

Clean Energy Sources

Hydropower is more predictable and reliable than its solar and wind counterparts. While solar and wind technologies are still evolving rapidly, advancements in hydro technologies are predicted to be at the forefront of new clean energy trends. Nearly 490 hydropower start-ups and scale-ups are in development or testing in 2023, and 745 wind energy start-ups and scale-ups are being tracked.

Hydrogen gas contains the highest energy density of all fuel types, and its near-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have pushed hydrogen into the development market. Fuel cell EVs are among the developing hydrogen-powered technology, but hydrogen charging stations are still few and far between compared to those for standard EVs.

Generally, hydrogen-derived forms are grey and brown, which are non-renewable hydrogen forms. Renewable green hydrogen sources are still being developed, as the energy conversion is lower, and this is where most of the focus currently lies.

All these forms of electrification are advancing and being integrated into the grid. Adding transmission capabilities to desired locations, such as floatovoltaics, will not always be convenient, and project developers need to understand optimal placement, product procurement, and permitting to ensure a successful installation for these newer electrification technologies.

Staying Ahead of the Grid, Tech, and Trends

Electrical contractors need to stay ahead of all developments across all stages of the electrification process. At-home EV charging and utility stability technology are equally crucial. No step in the process can afford to go unknown. Tracking every facet of electrification can be difficult for electrical contractors. That’s why so many companies partner with Qmerit, the leading expert in electrification and the most trusted distributed workforce management company in North America.

Qmerit makes electrification easy for customers and electrical contractors alike, with resources for our Qmerit Certified Installer Network dedicated to your continuing education, project financing, business coaching, and an easy-to-use Qmerit Resource Center. Contact Qmerit today and let us help you build your business for the future.

Author: David Santillo

David Santillo

Senior Vice President, Contractor Support