The share of renewables in global electricity generation is on the rise, and accounted for almost a third of global electricity generation in 2021^.
As innovation in the sector increases, this will help to reduce the cost of renewable energy sources and decrease the role that fossil fuels play in the energy industry. Looking at trends in patent publications can help us to understand how the world of renewable energy is changing over time.
Data published by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)^* about International patent applications relating to renewable energy can give us an insight into which technology areas are leading the way and where this innovation is happening.
The graph below shows the number of published International applications between 2002 and 2019 relating to solar, fuel cells, wind energy and geothermal energy.
Innovation in the solar sector is clearly leading the way, with solar patent publications peaking in 2012. The peak and then subsequent fall in published International applications relating to solar is likely indicative that companies that focused on innovation of new technology in the solar sector are now increasing their focus on commercially exploiting that technology.
Innovation in the solar photovoltaic sector has led to reduction in solar panel manufacturing prices, meaning that installation itself is now the largest component of the cost of solar systems. In addition, innovation has led to an increase in conversion efficiency of solar energy to electrical energy which further reduces the costs involved, as a smaller area of solar panels are required in order to meet the same energy needs*.
Focusing in on solar, the following graph shows the top countries in which published International patent applications relating to solar power originated between 2010 and 2019. ^* The country of origin of the applicant or the first applicant listed if there is more than one, is taken to indicate the origin of the application.
Japan, the US, China and the Republic of Korea are leading the way in the solar sector. In fact, Japan has three of the top five technology owners in solar (Mitsubishi, Sharp KK and Panasonic) with the other top technology owners (LG and Samsung) being from the Republic of Korea*. By 2010, China was manufacturing over half the world’s solar panels*. China is now also a hub for innovation in the solar sector. In 2017, China became the first country to have 100GW of solar capacity^*.
Between the year 2010 and 2020 installation of solar PV cells rose worldwide by more than 500%**. This is due to the solar industry ramping up mass manufacturing and shipping solar modules worldwide**. This indicates the powerful role innovation in the solar sector has to play in the future of renewable energy.
Our attorneys are engineers and scientists who are keen to support clients in this growing and important area. Get in touch if you would like to discuss your innovations and brand protection further.
^ Renewables – Global Energy Review 2021 – Analysis - IEA
^* Patenting trends in renewable energy (wipo.int)
** Patents and the Energy Transition – Analysis - IEA, Patents and the energy transition (windows.net) **
Madeleine Fowler Part-Qualified Attorney