Three Game-changing Energy Technologies by 2030
Three Game-changing Energy Technologies by 2030

Green innovation is on course to change the way we power our world. In the first of a two-part series, we examine three of the six game-changing technologies with the potential to revolutionise the way we live.

Climate change is one of the world’s leading existential threats, and governments and business leaders globally are working hard towards reducing and eventually eliminating carbon emissions. 


To achieve this, the energy sector is looking to adopt more and more innovative low-carbon energy technologies. Over the course of two articles, we will explore six game-changing technologies that are likely to shape our future:


1. Offshore renewable energy

2. Energy storage

3. High voltage direct current

4. Green hydrogen

5. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage

6. Nuclear fusion


In the near-term, floating wind and solar, energy storage and high voltage direct current (HVDC) are all technologies that exist, but have yet to be fully commercialised. It is predicted that we will begin to see the impact of these technologies by 2030. 

1. Offshore renewable energy 

Offshore renewable energy is the generation of electricity from ocean-based resources such as wind, waves, and tides. More recently, floating solar has also been included in this category in jurisdictions like the EU. As we begin to run out of appropriate onshore areas for the development of renewable energy, offshore renewable energy options become more attractive. Ocean resources are abundant, inexhaustible, harvestable, and zero carbon-emitting. They can help tackle energy-related problems, mitigate climate change, and solve other environmental issues. 


One example of effective offshore renewable energy is the use of floating wind turbines. These floating structures have no foundation on the seafloor, but are based on semi-submersible, tension leg or spar platforms, kept in place by different mooring and anchoring systems.

Different types of floating wind turbines
Source: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review

While there is a high potential for the development of offshore wind power in untapped, windy, and exposed offshore areas, the endeavour also comes with a host of challenges such as higher wind speeds, cabling, and mooring costs. Nevertheless, it has been shown that floating designs could achieve lower levelised costs compared with bottom mounted designs, due to their lower sensitivity to costs increasing with water depth. 


And despite most of the implemented technologies in offshore floating turbines having a limited capacity of about 6MW, Norway’s US$560 million Hywind Tampen Project in the North Sea, set for completion in 2022, will have 11 turbines with a total generating capacity of 88MW. This shows that even the capacity constraint issue is being resolved.  

2. Energy storage

Of the various forms of renewable energy sources, solar and wind power are generally considered the most unstable due to the direct correlation between power generation levels and weather conditions. However, new technologies have been adopted to address the intermittent nature of solar and wind power and absorb the fluctuations in power generation, and one of these game changers is energy storage.


The key to efficient energy storage is having affordable and flexible energy storage systems that can store and provide power for up to 24 hours, have enough power to cope with peak spikes, and are scalable. 


While conventional energy storage systems on a residential or commercial scale are mostly designed to provide power for a shorter duration of time, long-duration energy storage systems can consistently charge and discharge at their rated power, or close to their maximum power, for up to 100 hours. This capability is essential in dealing with the intermittent nature of wind and solar power and helps maximise the utilisation of renewable energy sources.


To achieve these goals, future technologies in energy storage need to be more diversified than the existing lithium-ion battery systems.

Energy storage service map

One example of innovation in energy storage is liquid air energy storage, or LAES, which uses excess energy to clean, compress, and cool air (about 78% of air is nitrogen) to -196°C. The liquified air is stored in insulated tanks at low pressure. When energy is needed, the liquid air is drawn from the tanks and pumped to high pressure, reheated, and expanded, resulting in a high-pressure gas which is used to drive turbines to generate energy. LAES is a unique solution to provide low-cost, large-scale, long-duration energy storage with no geographical constraints. It can also harness waste heat or waste cold in the system to further increase the overall efficiency.


This system is currently in operation at the Highview Power Storage in Vermont in the US. This facility provides at least 50MW and eight hours of energy storage (i.e., 400MWh). It is the first long-duration LAES system in the US and is the first of a batch of planned utility-scale LAES projects being developed across the country to help scale up renewable energy deployment.

Liquid air energy storage

3. High voltage direct current 

Power transmission is a key element to harness bulk wind and solar energy which are only available in remote locations. High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) technology is not new, but advancements in power electronics and rapid deployments of HVDC transmission systems around the world since 2000 have enabled countries to tap into their sustainable resources such as solar and wind power using HVDC transmission lines. 


Compared to Alternating Current (AC) system, the High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) system is more economical to build and maintain for bulk power transmission given a long distance. HVDC cables can be more economical for underground and underwater applications, and can also be used to interconnect asynchronous grids. With growing demand for massive renewable energy integration, reinforcing the stability and reliability of the grid, and global energy interconnection, the potential of utilising more HVDC power transmission systems is immense.


Ultra-high voltage direct current (UHVDC) is one of the most rapid developments in HVDC transmission systems. A UHVDC network is capable of supporting DC voltage transmission of above 800 kV, whereas a HVDC network generally operates at a voltage of between 100 to 800 kV. The higher the voltage, the more electricity the line can carry and the lesser transmission losses. 


For instance, China has built a number of UHVDC lines integrated with their UHV AC systems to enable the transmission of massive solar and wind power generated in north western China to the load centres in eastern China, spanning a distance of over 1,000 kilometres across several provinces. Estimates suggest these projects will reduce carbon emissions by approximately 30 million tonnes a year, equivalent to taking more than six million cars off the road.