There will be enormous technological changes in the energy industry.
We need to understand what they are and how they affect our business models.
Our Future Energy Tech: Daniel Franklin reviews how technological developments will change the way we live and work. One section he has solemnly dedicated to energy issues. Daniel foresees that wind energy and photovoltaics will over time become alternatives to fossil fuels in the energy industry, but they will not become substitutes. Already this change can be seen in the electricity industry. In the last few years, the price of electricity relative to the cost of setting up photovoltaics (PV) has fallen dramatically. We have argued about this phenomena in 2015, that the kWh-price is expected to fall further in the coming years as PV becomes even more competitive to fossil fuels, coal in particular. This book is quite revealing.
We will look at the changes we have seen in the German energy markets. This may illustrate some of the key points, but it does not have to.
1. Major upheaval in PV market in Germany, due to increased competition from China
We can see the changes play out in real life. East Germany was until very recently a center for the production of solar panels. With China’s entry in the PV market, it became more economical to produce solar panels in China due to a whole host of economic reasons, the most important reason being that scaling or mass production reduces the price of electricity for customers as utilities look for the cheapest way to produce electricity.
2. Simimarily, we have seen the wind energy industry in Germany consolidate
Nordex is the most prominent example, they have aquired Acciona in Spain to expand their footprint in up-and-coming markets, in Europe and abroad. It certainly helps Nordex to gain market share relative to its competitors in Europe, especially Enercon. From a financial point of view, one could argue that Nordex has remained unprofitable for a very long time, because of cost pressure from China.
Nordex situation reflects similar developments in all sectors of the renewable energy industry. Driven by cost pressure, companies need to optimize, they need more lean processes, become more cost-effective, integrate their logistics with their manufacturing operations. Most of all, they need to become more innovative to compete with their peers. The alternative is that they will have to compete with Chinese companies on an equal footing, which is very difficult given the price competitiveness of Chinese manufacturers.
3. Costs-effectiveness determines future usage
As the industry matures, manufacturers find themselves racing against time and renewables will become more cost-effective. The share of fossil fuels relative to total primary energy consumption will decline over the years, but will continue to play an important role in the energy industry.
One minor criticism I have is that Mega Tech doesn’t go into much detail what are the changes in the waste-to-energy sector and waste-to-fuel sector, how this could fuel a totally different way of life. I strongly believe there are some great investment opportunities in these two areas.
Franklin, D 2018, MEGATECH, Profile Books Ltd, London.