Navigant Research Blog

How Long Can Companies Afford to Neglect Setting Science-Based Climate Targets?

— December 21, 2017

This blog post was prepared with contributions from Vincent Hoen, Jeroen Scheepmaker, and Frank Stern.

During the last 3 years, more than 300 companies have signed up to participate in the Science Based Targets initiative. The combined revenue of these companies runs into the billions of US dollars and includes high ranking Fortune 500 companies like Walmart, HP, CVS Health, and Procter & Gamble. Why are these companies committing to science-based targets? Are they willing to publicly disclose their emissions and commit to reducing their environmental impact?

Increased awareness of environmental responsibility, especially following the Paris Agreement, has increased overall consumer, city, and business willingness to act. The corporate sector is embracing science-based targets as an instrument to provide objective guidance on how to react to increasing pressure to have a credible climate strategy. Science-based targets show the fair contribution of any company to limit global warming to 2° or even 1.5° Celsius.

In addition, science-based targets help companies do the following:

  1. Mitigate climate risks and ensure investor acceptance.
  2. Meet climate disclosure recommendations (e.g., from the Financial Stability Board).
  3. Improve business relationships.
  4. Become a more attractive employer.

Let’s look at these points in a greater detail.

Science-Based Targets Become Part of Overall Credit Rating

Globally, well-accepted rating instruments such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices and CDP Climate Leadership Index are integrating science-based targets into their ratings and awarding credits for companies having an approved science-based target. Not committing to science-based targets can lead to lower credit ratings and less client and investor attractiveness.

Science-Based Targets Will Be Part of Recommended Climate Risk Disclosure

The Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (FSB-TCFD) recommends companies perform scenario analysis on their portfolios to assess climate-related risks and opportunities. Setting science-based targets is the tool for meeting these recommendations, as science-based targets are based on the leading climate scenarios of the International Energy Agency. They provide key insights into the required transformations for a company and a direct link to climate risks and opportunities. By setting science-based targets, companies are also well-prepared for upcoming policies that make a climate impact disclosure mandatory.

Science-Based Targets Result in Improved Business Relationships

An important trend is companies not only focusing on their own operations but also on value chain impacts. For instance, Walmart’s Project Gigaton implemented a suppliers program to achieve its climate objective and science-based target. A solid climate strategy with a science-based target ensures that companies act in line with the demands of the purchasing departments of supply chain partners. Companies can develop more intimate client relationships and secure longer-term contracts when a science-based target is in place.

Sustainability Increases Employer Attractiveness

Last but not least, it is known that companies with a strong climate strategy will be more attractive not only for clients and investors, but also for (new) employees. Young professionals have a strong preference for companies with a green image. A science-based target is a great instrument to drive an ambitious sustainability program.

Benefits of Science-Based Targets

Science-based targets are being embraced on a large scale by corporate leaders because they provide the perfect framework for a credible climate and energy strategy. These targets are at the heart of climate-related risk disclosures and will continue to have an increasing effect on companies’ credit ratings. In addition, science-based targets ensure soft benefits, including communicative value, improved supplier relations, and a more attractive working environment. Acting now allows companies to join the ranks of sustainability leaders and show shareholders, investors, clients, suppliers, and employees that the company has a credible response to prevent climate change.

 

European Powerhouses Invest in EV Assets

— December 21, 2017

The days of the internal combustion engine in Europe appear to be numbered, as the governments of the UK, Germany, and Norway all plan to end petrol and diesel car sales in the coming decades. The newly empowered replacement market of plug-in EVs (PEVs) continues to rapidly grow, and a trifecta of industries (energy, fuels, and automakers) is jockeying for position in powering PEVs.

Electrifying Partnerships

Fuel company Shell gobbled up EV charging company NewMotion earlier in 2017, and it announced a partnership with Daimler, BMW, Ford, and Volkswagen in November 2017 to install the group’s Ionity EV chargers at Shell locations across Europe. In September 2017, NewMotion signed a deal to provide access to its network of EV chargers to the customers of France’s Total. Competing oil major BP has been in talks with automakers to offer EV charging at its fuel station in Europe, according to Reuters.

Tie-ups between fueling station operators and PEV makers and charging companies make sense since the number of cars in need of petrol will only shrink in future years, so both are looking to provide similar services to PEV drivers rather than concede market share. Ultra-fast charging, at 300 kW or greater, makes sense at these locations since many PEVs will be able to get an 80% (or greater) charge in 15 minutes or less, during which customers can buy snacks, grab fast food, or take a bio break. (I presented on this topic to at the recent NACS Fuels Summit Latin America in Buenos Aires, Argentina.)

Power to the PEVs

European utilities rightly see PEVs as the greatest opportunity to increase load, and the somewhat flexible nature of EV charging allows for managed charging to balance the natural peaks and valleys in electricity supply and demand. Germany’s RWE was in early on EV charging and sells charging infrastructure and other EV-related services through its spinoff company Innogy. Also based in Germany, E.ON is deploying a fast charging corridor from Norway down to Italy in partnership with e-mobility service provider CLEVER. Global sales of direct current (DC) fast chargers are expected to reach 70,000 units annually by 2026, according to Navigant Research’s newest report on DC fast charging.

French energy company ENGIE has also been active, acquiring charging infrastructure company EV-Box in March as well as investing in e-scooter company Gogoro in September 2017. E-bikes, e-scooters, and e-motorcycles need to replenish energy as well, and we’ll likely see more companies offer more than light duty vehicle charging services.

Italy’s Enel reached across the Atlantic to acquire eMotorwerks, an EV charging services company that is also working on vehicle-to-grid integration services. In the UK, a consortium including energy companies National Grid, British Gas, ScottishPower, and ESB is researching the potential for integrating PEVs into operations across the UK.

Down the Road

The EV charging market remains highly fragmented with many small players. Utilities and energy companies have recognized that the stakes (and revenue potential) are much higher with ultra-fast charging and the rapid expansion of PEV models for sale. Making a profit by marking up electrons has proved challenging for startup companies. Energy companies with distribution networks and utilities that understand high power delivery believe they are well-positioned to manage power delivery through EV charging assets. Combining EV charging with other home energy management services is a desired business model for automakers, generation, and distribution companies alike. They will, however, face competition from the US’ largest EV charging network—ChargePoint—which has been fundraising to expand its European operations and has received investment from Siemens, Daimler, BMW, and others.

 

In an Age of Digital Disruption, Cities and Utilities Must Work Closer

— December 19, 2017

Energy transformation will force the industry to reassess existing value propositions and identify new revenue streams. Until recently, this value lay in single technologies—such as smart meters or solar PV. However, the industry is recognizing value in the convergence of technologies that have historically been treated separately. These technologies might not currently sit within a utilities’ existing area of influence. The potential convergence of EVs, automated driving, smart transportation networks, charging infrastructure, metering, and billing could create huge opportunities for utilities. The industry should keep an eye on disruption in other industries, particularly transportation and smart cities.

Utilities Must Identify Where Value Will Be Created

Kodak is an often cited example of how companies can fail in periods of industry disruption. Kodak developed the first digital camera and owned many patents related to digital photography. Yet, it failed to recognize where the future of digital photography value lay. It believed that digital photos would still be printed on Kodak paper and did not consider a future where users would share digital images online.

There are many lessons that utilities can learn from Kodak, primarily that nothing within business models can be taken for granted. No part of the value chain is immune from the risk of future irrelevance. Every company must consider where the future value will lie in the energy transition. For many, this will focus on helping customers reduce their power consumption, instead of supplying more power. ENGIE UK and the Netherland’s Eneco have both stated their intentions to shift to this service-based approach. The industry has also recognized the growth opportunity in supplying power to EVs and the associated vehicle-to-grid services.

There Is Significantly More Value for Utilities beyond EV Recharging Infrastructure

However, I would posit that utilities have not yet recognized the potential value that lies beyond EV charging infrastructure, supply, and grid services. The automotive industry is undergoing a period of disruption arguably greater than what utilities are experiencing. As city leaders are increasingly concerned about pollution and congestion, cities such as Paris, Athens, Madrid, and Mexico City have announced bans on the most polluting diesel vehicles by 2025. The UK, France, and China have announced bans on the sale of all light duty internal combustion engine vehicles in the next 20 years.

While EVs will play a large part in the shift away from petrol and diesel and offer an opportunity to utilities, there is significant value to be gained by the most ambitious utility. Decarbonization is just one part of automotive disruption, and we are starting to see a shift in trends of car ownership. Increasing numbers of urban residents are turning their backs on car ownership. Singapore has legislated that there will be no net increase in car ownership after 2020. Auto manufacturers are investing millions in automated vehicles, which could hugely disrupt ownership models and, consequently, the taxi and car hire industries.

Utilities Must Work Closer with City Leaders

City leaders—keen to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion—could be the primary driving force behind a shift to shared ownership and automated models. However, they will need partners to deliver the sophistication of smart transportation services. Utilities have an opportunity to provide the recharging infrastructure for EVs, so it is not inconceivable that they can manage additional infrastructure, such as the metering and billing of automated vehicle use, predictive maintenance of vehicle fleets, fleet asset management services, and more.

Over the past decade, I have witnessed (at least some) utilities’ reluctance to cooperate with smart city programs. However, the concomitant digitization and disruption of electricity and transport create a strong argument for cities and utilities to work closer for their mutual benefit and the benefit of citizens. Navigant Research recently published a list of recommendations for utilities to work closer with city leaders.

 

Finding Value in Public EV Charging Infrastructure

— December 19, 2017

Although the chicken/egg debate still looms over EVs and public charging infrastructure, the market is now moving forward under the assumption that mass adoption of EVs will require a sufficient network of public charging infrastructure. Public fast charging infrastructure along highways enables regional travel, and fast chargers in and around metro areas can support drivers who don’t have a home charger. Navigant Research expects EV supply equipment sales to grow from around 875,000 in 2017 to over 6 million in 2026 to meet the needs of the growing EV market.

Public Charging Availability Bolsters the EV Market

Public chargers represent a relatively small percentage of this total growth, but well-established and reliable public charging networks are considered an important factor for prospective EV owners. Publicly available charging networks give consumers the confidence that an EV will serve their driving needs, even if they are likely to do the vast majority of their charging in-home.

The business case for public charging remains difficult. For the private sector, high installation costs and low utilization rates can make it difficult for any profit-driven business model, particularly for a business model that only uses pay-to-use as its source of revenue. In addition, any profit-driven business model for the buildout of EV charging infrastructure encounters challenges of providing sufficient and equitable charging networks throughout entire communities.

Examining Business Drivers

What are the business models that will drive the rollout of public infrastructure that Navigant Research’s forecasts project?

  • Automaker investments: These are a key driver to fast charging networks, with OEMs looking to replicate the Tesla Supercharger network model—but not necessarily as a free-to-use option.
  • Retail partnerships: Retail businesses have been popular targets for EV charging networks, with charging typically provided for free and seen as a tool to attract customers and increase sales. If the rollout of fast chargers in metro areas takes off, retail outlets would also be good locations because they would provide the driver something to occupy their time during a 15-minute charging session. There are also hypothetical business models that would use revenue-sharing strategies to offset costs of public chargers while still capturing the increased sales revenue from EV customers.
  • Electricity demand and grid services: Many utilities are interested in the value that EVs can provide. A utility-provided charging network may provide a utility with increased electricity sales in the long run. It could also provide the ability to utilize EVs for grid services through the utility’s provided chargers, which could offset costs in the long term.
  • Equitability: Public sector stakeholders that see equitable charging access as a priority may be able to justify the use of public funds for the increased equitability of the charging network. For some public agencies, decarbonization goals will also drive investment.

Visibility Is Crucial

If EVs are to continue to penetrate the market at an increasing rate, prospective buyers will need to see charging networks that support their use and enable them to travel without range anxiety. Identifying value will be critical for the rollout of publicly available charging infrastructure, which in turn has an impact on EV sales growth.

 

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