Our Where to Play 2021+ Report highlights how the end-to-end innovation process requires thorough environmental scanning as a key starting point. Identifying the pertinent trends and technologies impacting your business environment can act as a blueprint for optimizing operations, creating more profound relevance with customers, and, ultimately, gaining strategic advantage.
Our industry reports follow in this vein and provide a starting point, showing how the technologies in our portfolio affect specific sectors and how businesses can harness these trends and technologies to create tangible value.
This week, with our new industry report, we turn the focus to energy. The energy sector is in the midst of a massive transition. The last two years have been characterized by disruption on a global scale. COVID-enforced lockdowns temporarily subdued energy consumption and demand, resulting in cascading effects in supply and price as demand quickly rebounded towards the end of 2020, leaving many producers scrambling.
In addition to this, the recently-concluded COP26 has underscored the complexity of transitioning to green energy; convincing over 200 nations of varying levels of geopolitical influence and commercial interests to halve their greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade is a monumental task. While other industries are implicated in discussions on sustainability, the energy sector is a focal point in how governments and corporates will remedy the climate crisis in the coming decades.
Around the globe, several driving forces are impacting the energy industry. There are increased coalitions between public and private sector stakeholders as coordinated efforts are required to eliminate fossil fuels from value chains. The post-pandemic landscape presents a particular challenge for how clean energy will be prioritized amidst global economic instability. Multinational gas and oil companies are leveraging emerging technologies to find quick wins alongside refocused M&A strategies to move towards renewables. Infrastructural redevelopment is also becoming a non-negotiable consideration in this period of intense flux for the energy sector.
Forces Shaping the Future of the Energy Sector
1. A Strategic Transition to Decarbonization
An urgent imperative in the energy sector is devising strategies for transitioning to decarbonization without sacrificing financial targets. Technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage are seen as temporary solutions to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and convert carbon for other uses in the interim as full decarbonization strategies take root. Technological advancement is needed to make renewable energy cost-effective and scalable. Moreover, a smooth and successful transition relies on buy-in from those most affected, decisive governmental policy, and intersectoral and international cooperation.
There are many unknowns inherent in this transition period. Energy companies and governments need to disseminate the strategies and active steps being taken to move towards decarbonization. Vendors, consumers, and employees of fossil fuel-reliant energy companies will seek reassurance and, in some cases, a chance to provide input and participate in the process. Cross-sectoral buy-in and collaboration are essential in the decarbonization process.
Inspiration: The world’s largest asset management firm, Blackrock, has partnered with Singaporean firm Temasek to begin funding start-ups that are providing technologies and services with the intent of reaching the net-zero emissions goal by 2050.
2. Global Energy Demand
Following the previous year’s dip in electricity consumption, global energy demand rose by 4.6% in 2021—a year-on-year increase that surpassed pre-pandemic growth rates. As developing and emerging nations experience economic growth, demand for affordable energy is expected to increase further. These nations have an opportunity to leapfrog to more sustainable ESG solutions to meet their infrastructural and societal needs. Meanwhile, China is positioning itself to play an increasingly prominent role in meeting energy demands in the global south, influencing geopolitics and the transition to renewables.
Inspiration: Having raised $83.5 million in funding, AutoGrid is scaling up its virtual power plant (VPP) platform Flex for distributed energy resources. AI-powered Flex manages capacity from batteries, EVs, and flexible load assets to help mitigate short-term imbalances in supply and demand on the electric grid.
3. The Renewable Energy Race
Expect jockeying from global superpowers as to which nation will be the go-to provider of renewable energy, especially for the growing demand from developing and emerging economies. Current data indicates that China could win this race as they are currently responsible for nearly 50% of the available renewable energy. While India, the US, and key EU member states attempt to catch up, success in the renewable energy race will depend on the ability to harness adjacent technologies such as Hydrogen Storage and Distributed Energy Resources.
The Alternative Energy Transition trend highlights that energy products need to be developed with SDG goals as a priority. Research findings from COP26 reveal that around 26 billion metric tons of greenhouse gasses need to be cut annually to meet that gold-star metric of limiting global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030. The ESG targets will lead to significant players making major headway to provide renewable energy. However, political tensions and economic interests will play a prominent role in the renewable energy race.
Inspiration: Tesla has secured a contract to build a second battery system in South Australia. Referred to as ‘The Big Tesla Battery,’ the battery will have a capacity of 100 MW/129 MWh—providing grid services comparable to gas peaker plants with quicker energy delivery and zero emissions.
4. Consumer-Led Shifts
Energy consumers—encompassing all sectors, organizations, and individuals who use energy feedstocks—have a pivotal role to play in smoothing the energy transition. Increased demand for decarbonization will help commercialize low-carbon technology and renewable energy. Energy companies and policymakers must address the barriers to clean energy adoption, including availability, cost, and reliability. Additionally, while it is inevitable that global energy demand will increase, more sustainable consumption behavior can be influenced by increasing environmental awareness, emphasizing financial benefits, and offering greater efficiency.
The trend of Beyond Compliance reflects the confluence of consumer demands and ESG regulations requiring companies to set benchmarks, create deadlines, and collaborate with other organizations that can optimize decarbonization strategies.
Inspiration: UK-based energy tech start-up Octopus is expanding to Asia after securing a $600 million investment from Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management. Octopus uses its AI-enabled “Kraken” technology to optimize renewable energy allocation to over 25 million accounts in countries such as the UK, Germany, and Spain, thereby automating a variety of energy supply chain processes.
5. Proactive Renewable Energy Investments
Oil and gas companies that have long relied upon and profited from the status quo will need to develop new strategies to integrate renewable energy into their business models. This also requires a transition period to change systems and acquire the enabling capabilities, including technology and talent. Incumbents must take proactive measures rather than passively await forthcoming ESG regulations. Their future success will rely on strategic investments and M&A opportunities, as well as their ability to help generate the demand for renewables within the next decade.
Proactive Renewable Energy Investments speaks to the trends of Diversified Value and Prosperous Partnerships, whereby companies need to forge mutually beneficial partnerships to ensure resilience and retain relevancy amid disruption. The advent of ESG Investing will enable M&A both through progressive policies and incentive creation. In addition, technologies such as blockchain and IoT will help organizations achieve the traceability, transparency, and accountability needed throughout ESG-compliant supply chains.
Inspiration: A 2021 S&P Global report found that 2020 recorded some of the most groundbreaking oil and gas acquisitions of renewable energy firms in history. Most notable is Chevron’s $13.76 billion purchase of hydrocarbon energy forerunner Noble Energy.
6. Circular Operational Models
Circular practices will be critical to organizations aiming to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Expect governmental and ESG regulatory pushes for organizations to examine their supply chain and give a second life to fossil fuel-based infrastructure. Industry behavior suggests that circularity in the energy sector could kickstart innovation and develop new business models in the next decade. This could range from repurposing oil fields as carbon storage units, converting pipelines, and recycling electric vehicle (EV) batteries to meet the growing cobalt demand.
Trends in our portfolio, such as Circular Economy, reflect that infrastructure and processes within the energy sector will need to reduce waste, increase product lifespan, and repurpose existing infrastructure to strive for net positivity.
Inspiration: XPrize competition winners Blue Symbiosis is an Australian start-up using decommissioned oil rigs to capture carbon. Blue Symbiosis is growing seaweed—which contains powerful carbon-absorption properties—on abandoned oil rigs to capture carbon. Additionally, Blue Symbiosis is experimenting with utilizing seaweed to manufacture construction materials such as bricks.
Environmental scanning helps organizations direct their focus and resources more optimally. And by gaining an understanding of the technological developments and trends that may present opportunities in their industry, organizations can equip themselves with the innovation intelligence needed to take decisive, strategic action for a more sustainable and prosperous future.
Game-Changing Technologies for Energy
Our new report, Where to Play: Game-Changing Technologies for Energy, aims to showcase the exciting possibilities and key solution drivers set to usher in an unprecedented period of transition in the energy sector. The report is interlinked with the ITONICS Innovation Platform to help organizations better connect the dots between these drivers of change, anticipate the most rewarding opportunities for the future, and gain strategic advantage.
Have more Time?
- Listen to our Podcast Episode: How E.ON drives the Global Energy Transition through Foresight
- Read How To Identify Relevant Trends And Technologies For Your Organization
- Read 4 Steps For Enhancing Environmental Scanning Capabilities
- Read Accelerating The Global Energy Transition Through Foresight