Technology Roadblocks to the Clean Energy Future

March 8, 2021
The clean energy future we’ve been promised is taking a long time to arrive. What’s standing in its way? Pecan Street examines four roadblocks that are holding back innovation and adoption of cleantech products, services and systems.

A great number of trends, technologies, policies and market conditions have significantly improved the promise of clean energy products and services. The cost of solar systems and batteries has never been lower. Sophisticated home automation technology allows customers to control nearly every electrical outlet and appliance from their smart phone, whether they’re at home, at work, or on vacation. In many markets, renewable energy has reached price parity with fossil fuel electricity. Nearly every major auto manufacturer makes a 2020 model year electric vehicle or has plans to make one or more models soon.

Why then, amidst all of this technology and market progress, does the electricity market in 2020 look so much like it did in 2010, or even 2000? Energy markets are complicated, and adoption of new technologies is affected by multiple variables. Upfront cost is perhaps the most consumer-facing factor. Solar energy has reached price parity with fossil fuels, but installing a rooftop solar system on a house requires a significant customer investment. EVs are more affordable than ever, but they still cost more than their gaspowered

Policy, too, has a significant impact. Electric and natural gas utilities have enjoyed 100 years of near monopoly market domination that was not only created by policy, but is now protected by it. For as much as utility executives deride the role of regulation, they live in a much more predictable world than companies that face genuine competition.

There are other variables that have hindered progress and adoption of cleaner, more advanced energy products and services. These technology roadblocks may not be as obvious as cost or policy, but they’re just as, if not more, important.