Navigant Research Blog

City and Regional Governments Ramp Up Fight Against Climate Change

— June 20, 2016

BiofuelGlobally, climate action and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction programs are becoming increasingly prevalent as electricity costs and climate change become larger areas of concern for residents. In North America alone, cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Vancouver, and Toronto have defined ambitious targets for improving sustainability and reducing GHG emissions and energy consumption.

While national aspirations were largely aligned during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP21 Paris conference, the global partnership lacks meaningful implementation and enforcement mechanisms. In the United States in particular, climate change is heavily politicized, and little action is being taken on a national legislative basis to combat the problem.

Climate Action Plans of Selected Cities

Climate Action PLans of Selected Smart Cities_RC blog

(Source: Navigant Research)

To fill the gap from strong city action and low levels of national alignment, several state and provincial governments have recently taken bold action to combat climate change. The province of Ontario unveiled its new sweeping Climate Change Action Plan in June 2016. The initiative is expected to spend up to $8.3 billion on a range of clean technology programs, largely funded from the provinces’ cap-and-trade program. The Climate Change Action plan aims to quickly transition the province toward more energy efficient heating systems, electric and hybrid cars (via a rebate of up to $14,000), promote the conversion of diesel-powered trucks to natural gas, and help the industrial and agricultural sectors adopt low-carbon technologies.

State and Provincial Collaboration

The state of California, well-known for its clean energy leadership, has a cap-and-trade program that is linked to three Canadian provinces: Quebec, Manitoba, and Ontario. Cap-and-trade programs now cover 61.8 million people across North America—38.8 million in California, 13.6 million in Ontario, 8.2 million in Quebec, and 1.2 million in Manitoba. Each of these programs are designed to drive down emissions and set aggressive GHG reduction targets. Over 17% of the combined North American population (354.1 million people, with 318.9 million from the United States and 35.2 million from Canada) is now participating—knowingly or unknowingly—in a cap-and-trade program without any national or regional framework in place. This figure is anticipated to grow significantly as more states and provinces look to fill the void left by national governments by creating enforceable programs that reduce overall GHG emissions levels.

 

Take Control of Your Future, Part VII: Merging Industries, New Entrants, and Colliding Giants

— June 13, 2016

Modern commercial premisesIn my initial blog in this series, I discussed seven megatrends that are fundamentally changing how we produce and use power. Here, I discuss how merging industries, new entrants, and colliding giants are changing our industry.

What Is Happening?

The power energy industry (the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity) is not the sole territory of the incumbent utility anymore. Several players from other industries, including oil & gas (O&G), technology, retail, telecom, security, and manufacturing, are trying to get into the game. Navigant sees many cross-industry movements, and one of them is increased crossover investments between the electric utility and O&G industries. Besides pursuing mergers and acquisitions, which I discussed in one of my previous blogs, we see investments in new areas of opportunity like renewables, distributed energy resources (DER, including distributed generation, energy efficiency, demand response, storage, etc.), transportation, smart infrastructure and cities, and energy management.

As an example, in April, the French supermajor Total announced the creation of a Gas, Renewables and Power division, which it said will help drive its ambition to become a top renewables and electricity trading player within 20 years. According to a statement by the supermajor, “Gas, Renewables and Power will spearhead Total’s ambitions in the electricity value chain by expanding in gas midstream and downstream, renewable energies and energy efficiency.” Other companies, like ENGIE and Shell, have made similar announcements.

A Total Gas Station in Paris

TOTAL

(Source: Reuters)

Fighting for Future Energy Positions

The large incumbent players in the energy industry are under pressure. And the way things are unfolding now, it doesn’t seem like this will change anytime soon. Time to make some minor tweaks? Change course more drastically? Or completely reinvent ourselves? These are discussions that are taking place more frequently at the board and executive levels of the incumbent players.

Electric utilities are under pressure because consumption growth is minimal and, in many cases, flat to slightly negative. The average consumption per customer (both residential and commercial) is declining due to self-generation, energy efficiency, demand response, etc. As a result, revenue is declining. Costs are increasing because of needed investments in a safe, reliable, cleaner, and more distributed and intelligent electric power grid. Utilities are identifying new revenue streams and thinking through new business models that will bring shareholder value going forward.

Oil companies are under pressure because of the continued low oil price. Ever since the oil price dropped to historic lows in 2014, the struggles of the industry have been daily news. Short-term hopes for a recovery were tempered significantly by the outcome of the recent OPEC meetings in Doha. Oil companies are looking for ways to survive by taking out costs, reducing their upstream capital investments, and shutting down unprofitable assets. They are also looking for new opportunities to grow revenue and future shareholder value.

Industry Giants Are Responding

In the last couple of months, I’ve attended several meetings with CEOs from large utilities and O&G companies. It is remarkable how their views on what is happening in the energy space are so similar. What is even more interesting is that their strategies to address the challenges and opportunities are almost identical.

Here is what they say is happening:

  • Energy consumption and gross domestic product (GDP) growth: Although population and GDP growth (at a slower pace) drive growing energy demand, the trend line between GDP and energy consumption growth has been broken. This is especially the case in developed countries. Energy consumption in the United States flatlined from 2014 to 2015 even as GDP grew by 2.4%. Since 2007, energy consumption has fallen 2.4% while GDP has grown by 10%, according to the 2016 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. At the level of individual utilities, we see this playing out. Utilities with no or limited customer growth see their overall revenue declining. Utilities that still see customer growth are reporting that demand (and revenue) is not growing at the same pace. This is creating an unsustainable situation, with flat or declining revenue, while the costs to serve their customers and investments in the grid are growing.
  • Impacts of climate change: In an earlier blog, we discussed the impacts of the growing number of policies and regulations to reduce carbon emissions. It is now clear that this impact is being felt. Beyond the COP21, Clean Power Plan, and other global or federal policies and regulations, many initiatives at the regional, country, state, and local levels are being designed and implemented in support of carbon emissions reductions. Sustainability objectives between government, policymakers, utilities, and their customers are more closely aligned than ever before. States and regulators will continue to discuss how sustainable targets can be met without affecting jobs and the access to safe, reliable, and affordable power. And utilities and O&G companies will continue to evolve to support cleaner, more distributed, and more intelligent energy generation/exploration, distribution, and consumption.
  • Big power to small energy and the rise of the prosumer: Customer choice is driving a large move from big to small energy. More and more customers are choosing to install DER on their premises. DER solutions include distributed generation, demand response, energy efficiency, distributed storage, microgrids, and electric vehicles (EVs). This year, DER deployments are projected to reach 30 GW in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, central generation net capacity additions (new generation additions minus retirements) are estimated at 19.7 GW in 2016. This means that DER is already growing significantly faster than central generation. On a 5-year basis (2015-2019), DER in the United States is expected to grow almost 3 times faster than central generation (168 GW vs. 57 GW). This trend varies by region because policy approaches, market dynamics, and structures differ. However, the overall move to small power will persist. In other words, the movement toward customer-centric solutions and DER will ultimately become commonplace worldwide.

And here are the strategies of large utilities and O&G companies going forward:

  • Search for shareholder value: Both utilities and O&G companies are looking across the entire energy value chain for future shareholder value. Right now, that value is not in exploration & production or power generation. Yet, shareholders are still interested in natural gas pipelines and transmission that support the movement of natural gas and electricity.
  • Attempts to develop new solutions and businesses: There has been more than just interest from incumbent players in new energy solutions such as renewables and other alternative fuel sources (hydrogen, biofuels, etc.), DER, behind-the-meter energy management, electric transportation, smart cities, etc. With serious profitability and growth pressure on their core businesses, more serious attempts to build new, potentially transformational businesses in this space are increasingly evident.

For example, Total’s Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné states, “The goal is to be in the top three global solar power companies, expand electricity trading and energy storage and be a leader in biofuels, especially in bio jet fuels.” To this end, Total announced last month that it is acquiring Saft, a designer and manufacturer of high-tech batteries for the manufacturing, transportation, and civilian and military electronics sectors. The company reported sales of €759 million ($856 million) in 2015 and employs more than 4,100 people in 19 countries. “The combination of Saft and Total will enable Saft to become the group’s spearhead in electricity storage,” Chairman and CEO Pouyanné said in a news release, “The acquisition of Saft is part of Total’s ambition to accelerate its development in the fields of renewable energy and electricity.”

Transportation and Smart Cities

Transport electrification, the increased use of biofuels (including bio-jet fuels), and the use of hydrogen to fuel vehicles are all on the rise. These alternative fuel vehicles will slowly but surely replace existing carbon-based transportation fleets, which represent approximately 35% of the global demand for oil. Now there are reports of 500,000 committed purchases of the Tesla Model 3. If Tesla can produce 500,000 cars a year, with models that are in the $30,000-$40,000 price and 200-plus-mile range, this will be another tipping point and game changer for EVs.

Meanwhile, as part of the smart city movement, cities are examining the sources and efficiency of their energy in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs. In the process, cities are becoming more ambitious and proactive in setting energy strategy. They are seizing opportunities to work with utilities and other stakeholders to create new urban energy systems. The emerging vision is of a smart city with integrated large- and small-scale energy initiatives, including major infrastructure investments, citywide improvements in energy efficiency, and distributed energy generation. As a result, both utilities and O&G companies are increasingly interested in becoming even more engaged with new transportation concepts and innovation (well beyond fuel) and smart cities.

So What Does This Mean?

Do the above examples represent some isolated, small adventures in crossover investments, or do they mark a trend toward two mega-industries (electric utility and O&G) colliding across the entire energy value chain and looking for shareholder value? Time will tell. What is certain is that there will be winners and losers.

There is a clear push for new revenue streams and growth opportunities given the current oil price situation. But we see also new, longer-term threats that will force the incumbent players to reinvent themselves and become broader energy companies. The industry giants seem to be in the best position to be the winners—and ultimately, they have no choice. After all, these are still the biggest companies in the world, and they have a huge shareholder interest that needs to be fed into the future. They simply are not going to declare “game over,” return the equity to the shareholders, and then advise them to go find new companies to invest in.

This post is the seventh in a series in which I discuss each of the power industry megatrends and the impacts (“so what?”) in more detail. My next blog will be about the emerging Energy Cloud. Stay tuned.

Learn more about our clients, projects, solution offerings, and team at Navigant Energy Practice Overview.

 

While Big Data Grabs Headlines, Small Data Is What Cities Need

— May 17, 2016

Bangkok SkylineSuppliers in the smart city industry offer a range of data solutions for city managers to better detect and respond to breakdowns and inefficiencies in the delivery of city services. The onset of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) have been touted as potential solutions to the biggest challenges facing cities today. However, what cities really need is small data—in other words, clear, specific, and actionable insights filtered from the vast amounts of raw or big data being created. For example, massive amounts of traffic data is only useful if it can be used to affect how services are delivered. Useful small data would alert city officials to inform public transit riders of delays and suggest alternative routes for more efficient travel. Getting even more specific, smaller data can help city and operations managers understand how their service delivery may be affected (i.e., an incoming shipment of cargo or goods will arrive 3 hours later than expected).

Creating more actionable insights for city managers is an opportunity for business analytics in all sectors. Government agencies need clear messages and response plans to improve operations, reduce costs, and better serve their citizens. When combined with easily understandable data visualizations, the increased use of statistical analysis, simulation, and optimization can help in the process to deliver actionable data insights.

Data and predictive analytics are currently able to provide some of the following benefits in each key sector:

  • Energy: Smart meters and other smart grid technologies are enabling a more dynamic and detailed understanding of energy generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption. As the energy system of the city becomes more complex, real-time data across these systems is vital in order to manage the grid and create effective energy markets.
  • Water: Intelligent devices, communications networks, and advanced IT systems are helping the water industry face the challenges posed by rising costs of operations, maintenance requirements, global urbanization, climate change, and other pressures on supply and distribution. In the process, the industry is expected to become increasingly information-focused, drawing on real-time data from the pumping station to the meter. Communications networks in particular can help to improve water management by discovering leaks and providing alerts if the water is unsafe for drinking.
  • Mobility: Real-time data collected from sensors, cameras, and other devices can optimize connections between modes of transportation for faster travel times, reduce the costs of operation, and increase convenience through improved information services for users. Data analytics can also be used to detect and predict the likelihood of traffic accidents or vehicle breakdowns based on congestion and speed patterns. This data enables managers to be much more proactive, as they can use predictive analytics to identify potential congestion issues, adapt bus routes, and dynamically manage the availability of city parking.
  • Buildings: New capabilities go beyond basic management dashboards to the analysis of a wide range of building-related energy and operational data. Predictive analytics are being used to anticipate future conditions based on past performance and avoid unforeseen facility management issues.

As demonstrated from the examples above, data is already helping cities become more efficient and improve in the delivery of city services. Being able to more accurately and quickly gain actionable insights from large data sets will be crucial for the future growth of smart city technology. For more information on big data, the IoT, and predictive analytics, keep an eye out for Navigant Research’s upcoming global report on Smart Cities.

 

Street Lights Are the New Smartphones

— May 11, 2016

BulbsJust as cell phones have evolved into multifunctional digital information devices, the once humble street light is becoming a hub for monitoring a variety of urban activities and sharing data with networks.

Navigant Research identified this trend in its 2015 Smart Street Management report, stating that, “Smart street lighting is becoming one of the most attractive solutions for cities looking for an immediate effect on energy consumption and operational costs while also laying a foundation for a broader range of applications.”

As street lights are being upgraded to more efficient LEDs, pole owners are seizing the opportunity to add networking capabilities, sensors, cameras, and power management intelligence to leverage the lights’ distributed electrified reach to provide a variety of services across cities. The convergence of city management technologies with street lights was on display throughout the recent Intertraffic conference in Amsterdam.

Intertraffic Conference

Examples highlighted at Intertraffic included Streetline, of San Mateo, California, which is working with Cisco on using cameras fixed to street lights as a less expensive alternative to sensors to predict parking availability. According to Kurt Buechler, Streetline’s senior vice president, the cameras cost around $100 each and are connected to a cloud service that performs analysis on the collected data. Cisco is also working on integrating cameras and Internet of Things technologies to street lights in the Netherlands via its IT networks.

Also at Intertraffic, Spain’s Circontrol announced its Trilogy offering, which combines lighting, smart parking detection, and indicators that show parking availability. Circontrol also displayed an integrated parking facility energy management system that uniquely incorporates electric vehicle (EV) charging management. Intelligent transportation systems vendor Q-Free is combining its air quality monitoring technology with street lights in Medway, England.

EV Influence

Other companies taking advantage of the ubiquitous presence of powered street lights include BMW, which adds EV charging capabilities through its Light and Charge initiative. In the city of San Jose, California, the SmartPoles pilot project is using wireless technology from Ericsson and Philips’ energy efficient lighting equipment to reduce costs while providing more flexible lighting management.

The convergence of smart parking, traffic management, EVs, and environmental monitoring—often using connected street lights to collect and share data—will bring much more holistic views to smart city managers looking to understand the full effect of transportation on urban life. Standards for data collection and communications protocols are quickly evolving to enable this broader view and will be of growing importance as cities look to understand and mitigate the effect of increased congestion and urbanization.

 

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