Utilities are in quite the precarious situation when it comes to climate change! On one hand, the majority of current infrastructure is built for fossil fuel power generation. On the other hand, renewables are rapidly becoming cost-competitive, though increasing the share of renewables in utilities’ generation portfolios will require substantial investments. Moreover, due to the intermittent nature of renewables, utilities will also have to invest in energy storage technologies, the vast majority of which are extremely expensive or still in the technology development/ pilot phase. To make matters worse, as distributed generation becomes more common through household solar and the use of electric vehicle batteries for storage, utility revenues will steadily decline as consumers generate their own electricity. Thus, utilities, like NRG, need to find other sources of revenue generation and monetization, such as CCS. As utilities will soon be battling over these additional revenue streams, I think NRG should hold its CCS knowledge as its competitive advantage, because it is almost guaranteed that all major utilities will be investing in R&D to find their own diversified revenue streams. As far as how to determine the efficacy of new renewable projects, utilities should be mindful of the rise of distributed generation so as to not over-invest in generation assets that may soon be underutilized.
This is a great piece on a very salient debate. I think agriculture companies have a dilemma on their hands when it comes to climate change. On one hand, they can increase crop yields today to feed an ever-growing global population by reducing the sequestration capabilities of land through deforestation or chemicals. On the other hand, they can accept lower yields now to maintain good faith on their climate change mitigation measures, though that would exacerbate current global hunger. It comes down to valuing lives in the present versus even more lives in the future. Chemicals and pesticides only marginally increase yields in the present, as you mention, but do much more harm in terms of sequestration abilities of land. To show their commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change, Monsanto needs to really distance itself from its past businesses. Inviting bids from chemical giants like Bayer does not improve its image in the climate change battle.
Great topic! The materials shortage due to China’s curtailment of exports is certainly having global impacts on many industries, from automotive to renewables. In the wind industry, for example, neodymium and dysprosium are required for making super-strong magnets for wind turbines. However, China has a near monopoly on the world’s neodymium supply (>90%), and has caused serious price fluctuations in the past. The renewables industry, instead of hedging against these price increases, has either started to mine these elements domestically, or has invested in developing alternative materials. Applying these lessons to the case of Ford, I do not believe hedging against steel/ aluminum prices is a sustainable solution, especially if China’s policy is meant to be more permanent. Instead, I would strongly support the idea proposed of utilizing carbon-fiber frames. While the technology is still not cost-effective, this is probably a better use of resources for Ford that will give it a longer-term competitive edge.
This is a really critical issue that you have touched on – not just for advanced economies, but for developing economies alike. Given the slew of new industries that have given rise to new skillsets that employers are looking for, economies need to find ways to develop talent internally, especially under a paradigm of isolationism. I agree that Apple cannot sit back idly and wait for the education systems to reform to compensate for the new skillsets. However, I am worried about a world in which Apple runs education. Not only does this give them a monopolistic competitive edge over new generations compared to their competitors, but it also gives Apple control over the ideas that entire generations are founded on. Corporations like Apple should definitely not be competing in classrooms while attempting to develop crucial skillsets. Thus, I think the government needs to play an important role here in forming partnerships with corporations like Apple so that all players can work together towards the goal of skills development. The competitors have to put their “business” outside the classroom in order for our society to raise an unbiased youth.
Awesome find! Given the inevitability of nuclear power as an integral part of our generation portfolio of the future, it is crucial that nuclear plants and utilities take advantage of the digitalization renaissance. However, I think nuclear is a tough starting point to learn about digitalization within the energy generation industry. This is because of the complexity of the technology and regulation, along with the high capital costs and sophisticated procurement processes. If we look at GE, it only completed the pilot (GE Hitachi) with Exelon in November 2017 after it had spent years working with predictive analytics on other forms of energy generation, from renewables to conventional plants. At this point, GE has already developed a suite of digital applications for power plants, including Asset Performance Management, Operations Optimization, Business Optimization, Advanced Controls, Cyber Solutions, and Predix (predictive analytics). I believe Westinghouse will have a much easier time adapting to nuclear digitalization through learning from other areas of the energy generation industry. Of course, it will still have to play catch up compared to other players like GE, but I think they stand a much better chance of success than if they approached nuclear power plants with digital right away.
Super interesting! I definitely agree with the premise that the path to digitalization should be prioritized based on ROI so that companies are making the right investment decisions. One way to indirectly tie digitalization efforts to the top-line is through the use of predictive analytics. Digitalization efforts should focus on aspects that actually add value to the customer experience, and are forward-looking rather than a diagnosis of historical behaviors. For example, predictive analytics could help hotels predict what type/ quantity of food inventory to order during various holiday seasons, or make sure to have enough cabs waiting outside at various times based on observed customer behaviors. Predictive analytics can also help determine which digitalization efforts a customer uses and appreciates the most, and individually tailor marketing promotions to those tastes. Hopefully, this should boost profitability while improving services in an increasingly competitive digital market.