JONATHAN REZZONICO, RENEWABLE ENERGY PROFESSIONAL&SUSTAINABILITY ENTHUSIAST
What is your background in renewable energy (RE) and why do you think is this field so important?
I can proudly say that my career has been green from the very beginning :).
After my studies in International Relations I started to work for a small company that was managing a portfolio of renewable energy projects. It was in 2006, we were just three people and we were considered “pioneers”. At that time in Switzerland, few institutional investors/companies were looking at the renewable energy sector with “real” interest. Then Fukushima happened and things started to (slowly) change …
Energy is one of the top ten environmental challenges we are facing, and renewable technologies will play a pivotal role for the development of a sustainable energy system. Furthermore, regarding the economy – we need to strive for a more inclusive system based on decentralized technologies granting the access to electricity in remote and less developed areas.
How can I argue for a change towards renewable energy within my company?
From a merely economic perspective it is a proven fact that “new” renewable technologies (mainly wind and solar) are now competitive with – if not cheaper than – traditional power plants. In the last five to eight years, the so-called levelized cost of energy (the cost for producing one kWh) of wind and solar farms has been constantly decreasing. As a consequence, most of Europe's governments have been eliminating their support for RE (often in the form of subsidized tariffs).
This opens up new opportunities and companies are now securing green electricity through so-called PPAs, Power Purchase Agreements. This is an instrument that allows firms to procure green energy without having to invest directly into power plants. At the same time, PPAs secure the cash-flow of projects. This means that RE will soon be a subsidy-free sector!
What needs to be done for a 100% renewable energy system?
A lot – but I believe we are going into the right direction. We just need to speed up! The energy sector is undergoing a revolutionary change triggered by the decentralization of production, the need to decarbonize our economy and the increasing role of digital technologies.
Renewable energies can be decentralized, do not emit CO2 and digital technology will allow to better integrate single projects into the system through better production/consumption forecast. What is necessary from an infrastructural point of view is the modernization of grids and further development of storage capacity (through batteries and Hydrogen-based solutions).
We need a long-term vision backed up by political commitment (starting with putting a price on carbon emissions!) and a mentality change. Just to give you an idea: based on a recent study of energie schweiz, only one third of Swiss households are CONSCIOUSLY choosing green electricity products…
Sustainable designers need to find the right “emotional leverage” and change the current wrong perception that a 100% renewable energy system is not feasible. Ultimately, a 100% renewable energy system will be the result of a bottom-up process!
How do new technologies and this digital age influence the RE field?
It can be assumed that wind and solar will be the leading technologies for a 100% renewable system (from a production perspective). The conditio sine qua non is, however, the electrification of the economic system and as mentioned before the development of storage capacity. For those interested in technical details, I suggest having a look at the recent report of Solar Power Europe and LUT University “100% Renewable Europe - How To Make Europe’s Energy System Climate-Neutral Before 2050”
Artificial intelligence and big data will also be crucial for the development of the energy sector. Many initiatives are now looking at how to use big data for more accurate production and consumption forecasts: this is pivotal for grid stability and for the implementation of energy efficiency projects.
Utilities might also use digitalization and analytics for transforming electricity from a (standard) product to a (customized) service: this would reflect the current diffusion of the “subscription economy”.
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Jonathan is currently looking for a new professional challenge and you can find him here.