Based on a ‘2013 Search for Growth’ survey which involved 1,835 executives in more than 40 countries globally, Frost & Sullivan’s has come up with some major trends in the global energy sector. Urbanisation and smart cities, the changing dynamics of unconventional gas, and opportunities generated from increased environmental awareness and legislation will be the key topics in 2014 and beyond.

“Frost & Sullivan’s research team has used the findings to select and prioritise the subjects that are deemed to be poised for the greatest growth,” Frost & Sullivan partner John Raspin, says.

According to the new findings, urbanisation and smart cities will drive changing market dynamics for energy and environment market participants. A growing percentage of the global population will be living in cities and urban areas in the coming decades.  Higher concentrations of larger populations are fraught with challenges:

  • Urban populations will be higher income, and the growing middle class will consume more goods, resources, energy, and water, and create more waste and pollution.
  • Increasing waste and pollution will drive awareness and the need for cleaner, more efficient energy and transportation.
  • Smart cities that can better use existing resources through improved monitoring, controls, and coordination of services and infrastructure can improve quality of life for residents and attract more businesses

Smart systems have been in place across the transmission and distribution (T&D) space and are now also moving into commercial and residential buildings.

The emergence of shale gas and shale oil in the oil and gas (O&G) space is also increasingly impacting the energy and environment sector. Natural gas has replaced coal as the main fuel source for electricity in the United States. China has abundant, though technically difficult to access, shale beds that, if tapped, could further increase the country’s economic clout on the global stage. Europe is looking at shale gas to increase domestic energy sources but also balancing that with environmental concerns.

“From an African point of view, the focus on micro-grids will increase to ensure that more people in rural and remote areas have access to power, albeit limited access,” notes Frost & Sullivan consulting manager for energy and power, Johan Muller. “The power source will typically be a small wind turbine, solar solution, distributed power, or a hybrid of the aforementioned. New business models that are unique when compared to the Western market system will need to be developed with a shift towards longer term financial gains, rather than immediate returns for investors.”

Environmental concerns, highlighted by industry participants as a key area of interest, are an issue with shale extraction because they drive the potential for smart cities.

Based on the same survey, Frost & Sullivan has also identified the Top 10 Technologies and Markets to Watch for in 2020. These are: energy efficiency and smart buildings, LED lighting revolution, small-scale distributed generation, smart grid and smart energy, advanced batteries and energy storage, solar photovoltaics (PV),  energy harvesting, energy recovery from waste, gas-fired power and shale gas exploitation.