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Windsor, Ontario, Canada Announces $4.9B electric vehicle battery plant

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Source: CBC:Kaitie Fraser · CBC News

Premier Doug Ford along with federal and municipal officials confirmed on Wednesday that Windsor, Ont., will be home to an important electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant. (Mike Evans/CBC)

Canada’s first lithium-ion electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing plant is coming to Windsor, Ont., as part of a $4.9-billion joint-venture deal between Stellantis and LG Energy Solution, federal and provincial officials announced Wednesday.

The operation is set to create 2,500 jobs in the region, with each level of government offering incentives for the project.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli, federal Minister of Innovation François-Philippe Champagne, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens were among those at the facility’s future site in the southwestern Ontario city for the announcement Wednesday.

“This is the largest automotive investment in the history of our province and the country as well,” said Ford.

“This game-changing battery plant will help guarantee that Ontario is at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution and ensure we remain a global leader in the auto manufacturing just as we have been for over 100 years.”

The companies say they’ve “executed binding, definitive agreements” to establish the factory, set to have an annual production capacity of 45 gigawatt hours.

Stellantis chief operating officer Mark Stewart said the facility will supply a “substantial amount” of EV batteries.

“This battery plant is going to supply across North America for us as one of two that we have envisioned,” said Stewart, adding the factory’s proximity to the U.S. makes Windsor an ideal location for business.

Government officials as well as senior representatives from Stellantis and LG Energy Solution spoke at the announcement about the EV battery plant on Wednesday, touting benefits for the local community and Canadian auto sector as a whole. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Stellantis plans to announce their second EV battery manufacturing plant, which will be in the U.S., in the coming weeks.

Stewart said Windsor’s new facility will be the size of about 112 NHL hockey rinks, with Champagne calling it Canada’s first gigafactory.

Governments, Windsor provide incentives

While each level of government has partnered in the deal to create massive incentives to the companies, it’s unclear how much funding the federal and provincial governments have kicked in.

When CBC News asked for details about the amount of taxpayer money that will be spent, Ford said: “I can’t divulge that. It would compromise some negotiations moving forward with other companies as well, but it’s a massive investment and its hundreds of millions of dollars.”

WATCH | Ford says he ‘can’t divulge’ how much Ontario, Ottawa have spent on the deal:

Ontario premier won’t say how much taxpayer money dedicated to new EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont.

18 hours ago

Duration 1:55

When asked how much federal and provincial funding is going toward a new $4.9-billion electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ont., Premier Doug Ford said he could not say for now. 1:55

For its part, the City of Windsor kicked in a land assembly deal for the massive factory, money toward infrastructure development if needed and a long-term tax grant, according to an official with the city.

The city is buying land for the site located at 9865 Twin Oaks Dr. at a cost of between $45 million and $50 million. The city will then lease the land to the joint venture between Stellantis and LG Energy Solution.

The official said the city has negotiated conditional offers with each of these corporate owners, in case either backs out.

Windsor is in the process of securing two sections of land needed for the site — one owned by Enwin and another owned by a private resident.

Government officials and business executives stand in front of the site of the planned EV battery plant in Windsor that’s expected to be operational in 2024. An official said the new facility will be the size of about 112 NHL hockey rinks. (Mike Evans/CBC)

“This was a whole-of-government approach, and so this is a highly competitive space — not just city versus city, within the province, across the country, throughout North America,” said Dilkens.

The mayor said the city would do everything in its power to make a smooth transition to the new plant, which is set to break ground later this year.

Our local roots are in manufacturing and automotive, and we’re darn good at it.

– Drew Dilkens, mayor of Windsor, Ont.

“Our local roots are in manufacturing and automotive, and we’re darn good at it,” said Dilkens.

“We’ve lived through the ups and downs of the global economy and we have lived through the ups and downs of he automotive industry. The men and women who work here never give up hope that there’s better days ahead.”

Wednesday’s announcement is the latest injection to Ontario’s car sector, part of Ford’s ongoing “driving prosperity” auto manufacturing strategy.

Nearly a week ago, Ford announced his government’s “critical minerals” strategy, aimed at capitalizing on the global demand for minerals crucial to items like EV batteries, and ensuring Ontario become a consistent supplier of those goods.

Heading into the official announcement, the prospect of an electric vehicle battery plant being built in Windsor sparked optimism about what it could mean for the region and the auto industry.

“This will put us on the map, not just here in North America, but globally,” said Rakesh Naidu, president and chief executive officer of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. “There’ll be a recognition of what Windsor-Essex can do in terms of not just how good we are in the conventional auto sector, but also in terms of the the new generation of auto technologies, and the new … EVs sector.”

Yvonne Pilon, president and CEO of WEtech Alliance, said the project would be great for talent retention and startup development in the region.

“There is a lot of technology in the electric vehicle, electric batteries, so from a startup perspective, we look at what this will mean for new companies coming to the region, new companies starting based on, again, a diversified and different supply chain,” she said.

With files from Kris Ketonen, Dale Molnar

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Energy and Transportation

The UN climate panel still doesn’t understand technology – and it matters

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The UN climate panel still doesn’t understand technology – and it matters

Source: RethinkX

With the Sixth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) being released, it’s important to revisit the climate scenarios that are its centerpiece. These scenarios form the basis of the climate science community’s modeling and projections, which in turn affects governance and investment decisions across the world. Trillions of dollars and the policymaking of the entire planet thus ride upon these climate scenarios, and so the cost of getting things wrong is extremely high.

Scenarios past and present

The previous generation of climate scenarios published in the Fifth Assessment Report in 2014 were known as Representative Concentration Pathways, or RCPs. The RCP scenarios were labeled according to the amount of radiative forcing expected by the end of the century in each case. Radiative forcing is the scientific term for the change in the balance between the Earth’s incoming and outgoing energy. The Fifth Assessment Report focused on four of these scenarios, with RCP2.6 having the least warming and thus being the “best case”.

In the eight years since then, a new generation of scenarios has been developed for the Sixth Assessment Report, referred to as Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, or SSPs. The five main SSP scenarios are also labeled according to radiative forcing, but in addition each has a subtitle that tells a story about an imagined future:

  • SSP1-1.9 – Sustainability (Taking the Green Road)
  • SSP1-2.6 – Middle of the Road
  • SSP2-4.5 – Regional Rivalry (a Rocky Road)
  • SSP3-7.0 – Inequality (A Road Divided)
  • SSP5-8.5 – Fossil-Fueled Development (Taking the Highway)

Flaws in climate scenarios

A scenario is only as plausible as the assumptions it makes. Unfortunately, the technology assumptions made in both the RCP and SSP scenarios are not remotely plausible, and as a result they are extremely misleading. If there were even one scenario that made genuinely plausible assumptions, then the others could be useful for comparison. But the lack of any properly plausible one means that, taken together, these scenarios will only cause harm by leading decision-makers and the public badly astray.

First and foremost, all RCP and SSP climate scenarios get technology wrong because they fail to understand the forces that drive technological change, how quickly the shift to new technologies occurs, and how quickly old technologies are abandoned as a result.

Our team at RethinkX has shown that the same pattern of disruption has occurred hundreds of times over the last several thousand years. Again and again, for technologies of all kinds – from cars to carpenter’s nails, from arrowheads to automatic braking systems, from insulin to smartphones – we see that technology adoption follows an s-curve over the course of just 10-20 years. The first phase of the s-curve is characterized by accelerating (or “exponential”) growth, which is driven by reinforcing feedback loops that make the new technology increasingly more competitive while at the same time making the old technology increasingly less competitive.

Unfortunately, the RCP and SSP climate scenarios show no sign that their authors understand technology disruption at all. For example, the “best case” RCP2.6 scenario in the Fifth Assessment Report published in 2014 assumed that less than 5% of global primary energy would come from solar, wind, and geothermal energy combined in the year 2100.

Source: Adapted from Van Vuuren et al., 2011, and IPCC, 2014.

In reality, the exponential trend in the growth of solar and wind power had already been clear for over two decades at the time the Fifth Assessment was published in 2014, and the trend since then has only continued – as shown in the chart below.

(Note that the vertical axis of the chart is logarithmic, increasing by a factor of 10 at each major interval, which means the trajectory is exponential).

On their current trajectory, which has been extraordinarily consistent for over 30 years, solar and wind power will exceed the RCP2.6 assumption for the year 2100 before 2030, 70 years ahead of schedule on an 86-year forecasting timeframe.

This is an egregious error that was entirely avoidable. The energy sector has shown every sign of becoming a textbook example of disruption for more than 15 years, and technology theorists were noticing the signs well before 2014. Indeed, Tony Seba – co-founder of RethinkX – had already published an analysis of the energy disruption in his book Solar Trillions in 2010.

Since 2014, the exponential growth of solar power has become common knowledge, as have similar trajectories for batteries and electric vehicles. It is therefore completely inexcusable that the same mistakes have continued in the new SSP scenarios for the Sixth Assessment Report in 2022. The SSP5-8.5 scenario, for example, is titled “Fossil Fueled Development”. Here is its description:

This world places increasing faith in competitive markets, innovation and participatory societies to produce rapid technological progress and development of human capital as the path to sustainable development. Global markets are increasingly integrated. There are also strong investments in health, education, and institutions to enhance human and social capital. At the same time, the push for economic and social development is coupled with the exploitation of abundant fossil fuel resources and the adoption of resource and energy intensive lifestyles around the world.

This logic around “rapid technological progress” is not just wrong, it’s backwards. The faster we make technological progress, the less fossil fuels we will use. The more global markets are integrated and the more human and social capital we have, the faster we will decarbonize.

The SSP3-7.0 scenario contains the same error:

Technology development is high in the high-tech economy and sectors. The globally connected energy sector diversifies, with investments in both carbon-intensive fuels like coal and unconventional oil, but also low-carbon energy sources.

Again, the basic premise here is false. Technological progress will result in less fossil fuel development, not more. The collapse of coal demand is already well underway in the wealthy countries of the Global North, and all fossil fuels in all countries will follow suit as clean technologies rapidly disrupt the energy and transportation sectors over the next two decades.

The SSP2-4.5 scenario assumes that, “The world follows a path in which social, economic, and technological trends do not shift markedly from historical patterns.” But the authors of this scenario do not understand what those historical patterns of technological change actually are.

As our research at RethinkX has shown, the pattern throughout history has been an s-curve of rapid technology adoption over the course of just 20 years or less once new technologies become economically competitive with older ones – as is now the case for clean energy, transportation, and food technologies. The data throughout history simply do not support the assumption that the shift to new, clean technologies will be slow and linear between now and the year 2100.

The SSP1-1.9 scenario, “sustainability”, is allegedly the most sustainable, but this too is based on false assumptions – namely that lower material, resource, and energy intensity are necessary for reducing environmental impacts, and that they are compatible with increasing human prosperity. Neither is true. The solution to environmental impacts is not less energy, transportation, and food. That would be like thinking that if your house is on fire, the solution is to extinguish some of the flames. That’s madness. The solution is to put the fire out, which means switching rapidly and completely to clean energy, transportation, and food.

If we want to be truly sustainable, we must have a superabundance of clean energy, clean transportation, and clean (i.e. non-animal-derived) food that slashes our environmental footprint and gives us the means to restore and protect ecological integrity worldwide. Any attempt to mitigate our ecological footprint by reducing economic prosperity would be disastrous because the scale of cutbacks needed to have any significant effect on sustainability would be utterly catastrophic to the global economy and geopolitical stability.

Projections to 2100… seriously?

It is worth stepping back a moment and recognizing that the RCP and SSP scenarios make quantitative projections to the year 2100. This in itself is flatly preposterous.

Five thousand years ago, you could have made a reasonably accurate prediction about what life would be like 80 years in the future. After all, not much changed from one generation to the next. Your children’s lives were likely to be very similar to your parents’ lives.

Five hundred years ago, in the year 1522, it would have been considerably more difficult to make an accurate prediction about life 80 years hence. The invention of the moveable-type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg 80 years earlier in around 1440 had helped turbocharge the Renaissance, setting the stage for the Scientific Revolution. Life in 1602 was still quite similar to life in 1522, but an explosion in the growth of useful knowledge was laying the groundwork for massive social, economic, political, and technological transformations to come.

A century ago, in 1922, it would have been very hard for anyone to predict with any accuracy what the world 80 years in the future, in 2002, would be like. Nobody could have imagined the role that nuclear weapons or computers or the Internet would play in our lives, for example.

Today, it is absolutely impossible to predict in any detail what the world will be like 80 years from now, around the year 2100. The rate of technological change is so fast now that our team at RethinkX never makes any quantitative forecasts more than 20 years into the future, because to do so is undisciplined in the formal sense. And technological progress is only accelerating.

Although we cannot know what the world will be like in 2100, we can say that it is implausible to presume the conditions and constraints of today will continue to hold. And this is why we can say that all of the RCP and SSP climate scenarios are implausible: they all presume life in 2100 will be more or less the same as today – still governed by material scarcity, regional resource conflicts, food insecurity, demographic transitions, health and education challenges, and even fossil fuel use. None of these makes even the slightest sense in the context of technologies that we fully expect to see from mid-century onward.

So, what happened? Why did the RCP and SSP climate scenarios get technology so wrong?

Anti-technology sentiments in conventional environmental orthodoxy

At least part of the explanation for fundamental errors and misunderstandings around technology we see in the RCP and SSP climate scenarios is that they were developed by a small group of academic authors operating inside an ideological bubble.

One of the features of this ideological orthodoxy is that it holds long-standing anti-technology sentiments dating back over two centuries to the rise of Romanticism and Transcendentalism. On the one hand, the orthodoxy holds that the arc of history ought to be viewed largely through the lens of human behavior and institutions, minimizing or outright rejecting the causal power of technology to shape societies. There even exists a pejorative term, technological determinism, that is used to label and reflexively dismiss any claims that technology has played a key role in steering the course of human affairs across the ages. Yet, at the same time, this orthodoxy holds technology largely to blame for the massive ecological footprint humanity has imposed upon the planet.

It can’t cut both ways. Either technology has enormous causal power, or it doesn’t.

If it does, then that means technology is also the key to transforming our world in positive ways – including achieving genuine sustainability. We don’t see this accurately reflected anywhere in the RCP or SSP climate scenarios because it runs contrary to the anti-technology sentiments of the prevailing orthodoxy.

When you don’t know enough to know you’re being fooled

The climate science community failed to realize the importance of consulting technology experts in the development of climate scenarios. Instead, they made the mistake of relying on conventional forecasts for technologies like solar and wind power from incumbent energy interests such as the International Energy Agency and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This would be a bit like relying on Blockbuster Video to accurately forecast the future of streaming video, or Kodak to forecast the future of digital cameras, or the American Horse & Buggy Association to forecast the future of automobiles.

The charts below show the laughably poor forecasting track record of the IEA and U.S. EIA.

 

 

Note that the unreliability of these two ‘authoritative’ sources was already clear when the Fifth Assessment Report was published in 2014. Would you depend on advice in a critical situation from someone who had gotten things wrong over and over again?

More cynically, it’s very difficult to see how the IEA or U.S. EIA making the same “errors” year after year for almost two decades could be an honest mistake. At the same time, it’s very easy to imagine that there are powerful incentives for these incumbents to ignore technological change, or even to deliberately troll others about it.

Regardless, trusting the wrong sources and failing to consult actual technology experts was an inexcusable mistake that the climate science community is unfortunately continuing to make.

Predicting the future is hard

The future is obviously uncertain, and the further ahead we look, the blurrier the picture becomes. At first, it might seem reasonable to err on the side of conservativism – after all, if you don’t know exactly how the world will change in the future, isn’t it best just to assume it won’t change much from the present? The answer is no, but the reason why this logic is flawed is rather subtle.

There are dozens of major dimensions and countless minor ones along which change can occur, all of which move us away from our present condition. The fact that these changes are unpredictable does not imply that the noise will somehow cancel out and leave us close to where we started.

By analogy, imagine assembling a complex machine like a car. If you don’t follow the exact steps in the exact order with the exact parts, you aren’t going to end up with a working car. And if you randomize the assembly process, you’re going to end up with a useless pile of junk. This is why tornadoes don’t spontaneously assemble new cars when they pass through a junkyard. The reason why has to do with entropy: there are almost infinitely more ways to incorrectly assemble things than to correctly assemble them.

This analogy helps show why any movement through a large possibility space is only likely to take you away from your current position. This is why the future will be very different from the present, even though those differences are unpredictable.

So, how should we deal with all the uncertainty of the future? The correct response is indeed to construct multiple scenarios that chart the general trajectory and broad outlines of possible futures based on plausible assumptions about what might change between now and then. The trouble with the RCP and SSP climate scenarios, however, is that none of them make plausible assumptions about technological progress.

Refusing to admit past mistakes only feeds conspiracy theories

The climate science community has made very serious technology forecasting errors in its climate scenarios, but has so far refused to acknowledge and take responsibility for them. This is a losing strategy.

Failure to admit and correct the technology forecasting errors in climate scenarios plays right into the hands of conspiracy theorists, because the longer we refuse to admit we’ve made mistakes, the more it looks like they were deliberate. These mistakes are too large to brush under the rug, and so there is no painless option here. We either admit we were fools, or we look like we are liars.

Admitting our mistakes and taking the heat for it is the right move. The alternative only indulges the worst extremist narratives that claim the scientific community has deliberately inflated the threat of climate change and misrepresented our options for solving it in order to advance an agenda of more taxation and more government control over private industry and individual consumer choices.

The public needs to be able to trust the environmental science community, and they can’t do that until we come clean about how wrong we’ve gotten renewable energy and other technologies in our climate scenarios. The longer we pretend nothing happened, the more our legitimacy will erode in the public sphere at a time when trust of scientific authority is already low in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting technology wrong in climate scenarios does real harm

Given the enormous stakes involving trillions of dollars and all of the world’s policymaking, the errors around technology in the RCP and SSP climate scenarios have had serious consequences. They have misled policymakers and the public alike into believing that the only means to solve climate change are punitive – that we must atone for our past environmental sins by sacrificing human prosperity, tightening our belts, and giving up our indulgent personal lifestyles. They have demonized the prosperity of the rich nations of the Global North as unsustainable, and condemned the aspirations of poorer countries of the Global South as unattainable. They have led nations to waste time and resources trying fruitlessly to achieve sustainability through austerity, when this approach is hopelessly counterproductive as I have previously explained.

Austerity cannot solve climate change even in principle, let alone in practice. Prosperity has always been a necessary precondition for solving big problems, both personal and collective, and so it is the only real path to sustainability as well. Technological progress in general will inevitably play an outsized role in bringing the prosperity we need to tackle major challenges to billions worldwide, and specific technologies like solar power and electric vehicles will give us the tools we need to directly reduce emissions and draw down carbon. The IPCC climate scenarios must reflect these facts so that we can all make well-informed decisions about how best to solve climate change together.

Source: RethinkX

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Energy and Transportation

How Will Electric Vehicles Pave a Way towards a cleaner energy future, today?

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There is change in the air.  And at the forefront of systematic change is the transformation of transportation, from fuel to electric.

And the good news is that electric vehicles (EV’s) are coming down in price.  New power grids are being established. In Europe, especially in Norway , EV’s are much more than a “fad” but they’re heading into the ‘norm.’ In the not- distant future,  EV’s just might be one of the paradigm shifts that get us off our addiction to fossil fuels, OPEC, and keep us enslaved in constant struggle and wars.

Jeff Van Treese II, Mobilized News TV host, has an enlightening conversation with Joel Levin of Plug in America, America’s leading organization for the transition to Electric Vehicles.

About Plugin America

Plug In America is a non-profit, supporter-driven advocacy group. We are the voice of plug-in vehicle drivers across the country. Our mission is to drive change to accelerate the shift to plug-in vehicles powered by clean, affordable, domestic electricity to reduce our nation’s dependence on petroleum, improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We help consumers, policy-makers, auto manufacturers and others to understand the powerful benefits of driving electric. We provide practical, objective information to help consumers select the best plug-in vehicle for their lifestyles and needs. Plug In America founded National Drive Electric Week, the world’s largest celebration of the plug-in vehicle, which welcomed over 180,000 attendees across 324 events in 2019, spanning all 50 states.

 

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Energy and Transportation

The Case for Electric Mobility

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Nikola Tesla would be happy.

As technology and innovation continues at lightning speeds, a new world of systems, services and policies is emerging.  Electric vehicles will replace the internal combustion engine, putting an end to the need for fossil fuels and the policies that keep them in place.  The price of electric vehicles is coming down, and the smart grids for charging have already emerged.

Mobilized spoke with Phillipe Vangeel, the Secretary General of AVERE about how e-mobility is shifting the power landscape, with an understanding of how–and WHY—Norway is a leader in the movement to cleaner energy systems.  Let’s hope the rest of the world catches on soon!

AVERE (The European Association for Electromobility) is the European association that promotes electromobility and sustainable transport across Europe.

AVERE is the only European association representing and advocating for electromobility on behalf of the industry, academia, and EV users at both EU and national levels.

Their Members consist of Companies, Research Institutions, and National Associations supporting and encouraging the use of Electric Vehicles and electromobility across Europe. We currently have active members in 21 European countries, notably some of the most successful EV countries like Norway, France, The Netherlands and Belgium. The association is governed by their Board.

Within these Associations, there are close to 2.300 industry members, ranging from SME’s, OEM’s, and other companies with a commercial interest in electromobility and about 100.000 EV users. Furthermore, AVERE’s network includes Users of Electric vehicles, NGOs, Associations, Interest Groups, Public Institutions, Research & Development Centres, Vehicle and Equipment Manufacturers and other relevant Companies. This extends beyond Europe into global outreach.

On top of advocacy, AVERE provides its members with a unique forum for exchanging knowledge, experience, and ideas on how to stimulate electromobility throughout Europe. Our Working Groups analyse the most important EV themes. We engage in European and international projects promoting sustainable transportation across the EU and we have often joined other international initiatives to support electromobility.

Philippe Vangeel is the Secretary General in one of the fastest changing and growing technologies: e-mobility.

In electronics by background, Philippe has always worked as a manager in the sector. Strong of 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, he brought a practical outlook to the association that enabled it to seize the moment: his vision is to make AVERE a protagonist in the growth of the e-mobility sector. In his five years, the AVERE’s membership grew significantly, while the association affirmed itself as the go-to expert for e-mobility in Europe.

As part of his broader approach, he also ensured that the entire e-mobility value chain would get visibility through AVERE. He made it the potential home of every player in the sector, from companies extracting the materials to build EVs, to vehicles manufacturers, charging point operators and final consumers.

His native language is Flemish, he is fluent in English and French, and is happy to help you in Norwegian and German.

 

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Editorials

Overcoming the Disinformation of Wall Street

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JP Morgan’s misinformation on the clean energy disruption – a handy guide

Source: Rethink X

 

The JP Morgan Asset and Wealth Management Annual Energy Paper is one of the most influential publications among global investment and business leaders in the energy sector.

But JP Morgan Chase’s 2021 Annual Energy Paper is a deeply flawed piece of work that promotes some serious misinformation about the clean energy transformation, reinforcing the mistaken belief – often promulgated by fossil fuel companies – that it will be slow, expensive and require onerous state intervention.

Coming from JP Morgan Chase – the world’s fifth largest bank, and the largest lender to fossil fuel industries – the paper informs the policy, investment and business decisions of many influential companies, organisations and governments around the world. Which is why it is important to understand that the world’s largest fossil fuel lender appears largely oblivious to the dynamics of technology disruptions and energy transitions.

Myth 1: Renewable energy forecasts are too optimistic

The Annual Energy Paper, authored by chairman of JP Morgan Asset Management’s chairman of market and investment strategy Michael Cembalest, was overseen by its technical advisor, influential academic Vaclav Smil.

Its tone is set by a graph on the first page depicting alleged failed ‘renewable energy forecasts’. The graph seems to show that these forecasts were overly optimistic, and then repeatedly turned out to be false.

Yet according to Ketan Joshi, who previously worked in science communications for Australia’s national science agency, the sources for the alleged forecasts are impossible to trace.

For instance, he writes: “Danish physicist Bent Sørensen, for instance, seems to have published the figure between 1978 and 1980, and it isn’t easy to figure out where the prediction of 50% by 2000 was made. There was never any ‘Clinton Presidential Advisory Panel’ – the phrase can only be found in republications of this very chart; so that’s a mystery.”

In short, some of the alleged forecasts simply didn’t exist and therefore amount to little more than fabrications.

The other ‘forecasts’ were not forecasts at all, but policy scenarios that some experts advocated ‘should’ happen. Here’s another example noted by Joshi: “And, finally, a single sentence at the end states that ‘In 2020, Mark Jacobson forecasted 80% by 2030’. No, he did not. ‘It is not a graph of what will necessarily happen. It is a graph of what we need to happen to avoid 1.5C warming and to eliminate as much pollution ASAP’, Jacobson said on Twitter, describing his recent modelling studies.”

Many of the scenarios can’t even be classified as ‘overly ambitious’ yet, because they are still in the future. Scenarios 4, 5, 6, 7 and Mark Jacobson might turn out to happen.

So the JP Morgan paper opens with a piece of flagrant misinformation that conceals an important reality: conventional forecasts of renewable energy have consistently failed not because they’ve been too optimistic, but too pessimistic: completely the opposite of JP Morgan’s claim.

Consider the year-on-year forecasting failures of two of the top energy watchdogs in the world – the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the US Energy Information Administration – both of which are repeatedly cited as authoritative by JP Morgan:

Under normal scientific standards, such consistent forecasting failures would render these agencies, their models and assumptions laughing stocks. Indeed, the incumbency’s track record of failed forecasts regarding renewable energy growth is very well-documented. The omission of this track record from the JP Morgan analysis is the hallmark of a biased document that is self-selecting and misrepresenting evidence.

Myth 2: Energy transitions are always slow

The JP Morgan paper’s general thesis is that energy transitions are always slow, and extremely expensive: “How is the global energy transition going? Taken together, the aggregate impact of nuclear, hydroelectric and solar/wind generation reduced global reliance on fossil fuels from ~95% of primary energy in 1975 to ~85% in 2020. In other words, energy transitions take a long time and lots of money.”

This assumption about energy transitions traces back directly to the report’s main advisor, Vaclav Smil, who was previously a fellow from 2008 to 2015 at the American Enterprise Institute (a well-known neoconservative think-tank with close ties to oil and gas firms, where much of Smil’s writing there, such as about fracking, reflected conventional mistakes).

The JP Morgan analysis traces back to three core arguments put forward by Smil throughout his work:

  1. Energy transitions must always be slow;
  2. Renewables will therefore not scale fast enough;
  3. Renewables will ultimately never be able to replace fossil fuels due to their lower energy density.

However, all these claims are deeply questionable, and rely on unstated and unjustifiable assumptions.

For instance, while it is true that the biggest energy transitions in human history have been slow, Smil offers no meaningful system dynamics-based explanations of why this was the case.

In fact, there are fairly obvious explanations. Prior to the interconnectedness of the era of globalisation, the global diffusion of technology was obviously much slower than what is possible today, and so a transition period of up to a century or longer for a major energy transition would not be unexpected. Fossil fuels are unequally geographically concentrated, and prior to the age of globalisation, it took time for supplies to be distributed around the world as the infrastructure to do so was built-up.

Another major issue is that the world of the nineteenth century (and prior) lacked both the financial capital and human expertise to deploy and scale energy infrastructure.

Today where large amounts of capital are available and solar, wind and battery technologies require far less capital than fossil fuels, and unlike the latter, they can be built anywhere at scale. This explains why many recent energy transitions at national levels have been far faster, taking place on decadal time-scales.

It also shows why solar PV and wind will not follow the same pattern as much older energy transitions. They are not limited by the same geographical production, refinement and distribution constraints of fossil fuels, and have entirely different deployment dynamics facilitated by an already existing global transportation and manufacturing infrastructure.

However, Smil mistakenly applies the past to the present without acknowledging that the last 200 years has seen the possibility space for rapid global change fundamentally transformed in a way that bears no antecedent in human history.

Drawing on Smil, the JP Morgan paper in effect repeats this basic category error which completely overlooks the fundamental difference between past and present. For most of human history, the world was not interconnected. We now live in a context where technologies can diffuse rapidly around the world, which has important new implications for energy disruptions.

In his compelling analysis of cases of rapid energy transitions, Nikos Tsafos of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Energy Security and Climate Change Program concludes:

“Many countries that have managed to grow without consuming more energy have reduced their consumption of specific energy sources and have changed their energy mix in a decade or two.”

As my colleague RethinkX research fellow Dr Bradd Libby points out, the bulk of the entire US military nuclear arsenal was built over a ten-year period from 1955 to 1965. In France, the nuclear industry provided less than 10% of national electricity demand in 1975, but this jumped to around 70% in just one decade by 1985. And there has been a dramatic drop in coal use in the US and UK in the last decade, replaced by a switch to natural gas.

And Smil himself acknowledges evidence that at a country-level analysis, rapid energy transitions do happen (and all in the last century), but fails to offer a framework to understand why and how some transitions are fast, while others are slow. Smil writes in his 2010 book Energy Transitions:

“… the record displays a remarkable scope of developments, ranging from the centuries-old dominance of English coal to an almost instant demise of Dutch coal mining, from a highly idiosyncratic and swiftly changing evolution of Japan’s energy use to the US orderly sequence of fuels during the first half of the twentieth century followed by a surprising post-1960 near-stasis of the primary energy make-up.”

In short, Smil’s transition analysis conflates renewables and fossil fuels as if they are like-for-like, ignoring the dynamics of technology disruptions. But renewables and fossil fuels are completely different, in the same way that coal was not like whale oil, cars were not like horses and smartphones are not like landlines. Ultimately, Smil’s work doesn’t provide any sound reasons for why solar, wind and batteries will not follow the rapid trajectory of other technology disruptions.

Myth 3: Fossil fuels’ domination of primary energy means they are here to stay

The JP Morgan paper argues that as wind and solar only account for 5% of primary energy, this proves that the transition is so slow that we can expect fossil fuels to enjoy dominance for decades: “In other words, direct use of fossil fuels is still the primary mover in the modern world, as the demise of fossil fuels continues to be prematurely declared by energy futurists”.

But in reality, this very figure suggests the transition is actually happening faster than previous projections. Consider what the IPCC 5th Assessment was predicting in 2014 – citing sources such as the IEA. In its best-case scenario (RCP2.6), the IPCC projected that solar, wind and geothermal would grow to provide 4% of global primary energy as late as 2100.

Consider, in contrast, the graph below from RethinkX’s report, Rethinking Climate Change: How Humanity Can Choose to Reduce Emissions 90% by 2035 through the Disruption of Energy, Transportation, and Food with Existing Technologies, which plots the growth of renewable energy on a logarithmic scale (the straight line up therefore indicating exponential growth).

The red dot at the top right represents the IPCC’s IEA-based projection. The dark line shows what’s happened up to 2013 with renewables. The blue line is the RethinkX forecast, which goes up to the present day, and if projected forward at that rate suggests renewables will hit 4% of global primary energy before 2029. So if it is already at 5%, that means the transition is already happening faster than anticipated.

As my colleague RethinkX research fellow Dr Adam Dorr commented on the stark implications: solar and wind growing are growing exponentially 78 years ahead of schedule on an 86-year forecasting horizon.

 

 

Myth 4: The renewable energy disruption, specifically, is slow and expensive

The JP Morgan paper cites the IEA’s projection that “70%-75% of global primary energy consumption may be met via fossil fuels in the year 2040.” Yet this ignores the economic implications of solar, wind and battery cost curve declines.

The data suggests not only that global solar and wind expansion are following Wrights Law of exponential growth, but that they are only just at the beginning of this ‘S curve’ of disruption.

Several independent experts, looking at the empirical data, have projected a rapid global transformation of the energy system within the next two decades. One recent reputable forecast, bizarrely ignored by the JP Morgan paper, was published by Oxford University’s Institute for New Economic Thinking in late 2021.

It found that early pricing prediction models have consistently underestimated both how far the costs of renewable energy sources might fall, and therefore how rapidly they can scale due to economic factors.

While the Oxford team see a rapid transition to 100% solar accelerating out to 2070, their ‘fast transition’ scenario based on current growth rates (which are actually still conservative) sees fossil fuels completely displaced by renewables by 2040 – the same date which the IEA insists fossil fuels will still be supplying three quarters of primary energy.

Most important is the Oxford team’s costs analysis. They found that the fastest deployment scenario is also the cheapest, creating savings of $26 trillion.

These findings are consistent with RethinkX’s conclusions, and with those of several other research teams – although our projections are more bullish (there are some limitations with the Oxford model, not least because they examine the energy system as if it exists in a silo immune to systemic feedback effects from other converging disruptions in transport and food systems).

All the available data, ignored by the JP Morgan paper, is consistent with solar, wind, batteries and electric vehicles being in the initial stages of the S curve, which means that the disruption – driven by economic factors – will be unstoppable well within the next two decades.

Myth 5: Renewables won’t scale as too many sectors are ‘hard to electrify’

The paper also displays a lack of understanding of the distinction between fossil fuels and renewables when it comes to primary energy. One of the most persistent claims of skeptics of the energy transformation is that as renewables still only account for such a small (5%) quantity of primary energy, this vindicates the idea that the transition is moving very slowly.

The JP Morgan paper asks: “Why don’t rapid wind and solar price declines translate into faster decarbonization? As we will discuss, renewable energy is still mostly used to generate electricity, and electricity as a share of final energy consumption on a global basis is still just 18%.”

But this is misleading, because in reality the global economy does not run on primary energy – the energy embedded in natural resources before conversion by human activity – but on final energy: the energy delivered to consumers to power our cars, keep the lights on and heat our homes. The difference between primary and final energy is in what the fossil fuel sector itself requires, along with huge transformation and distribution losses, all related specifically to the fossil fuel system.

What the paper obfuscates is that in the process of getting from primary to final energy, a huge amount of energy is wasted due to transmission as well as heat losses. In converting primary energy to electricity, some 63% is lost to waste heat. Yet solar, wind and batteries do not generate the same sorts of losses because they supply electricity immediately straight to the final energy stage. This means that we don’t need to replace all of primary energy because solar, wind and batteries represent a completely different type of energy system altogether without the same type of energy waste.

As Seb Henbest, chief economist at BloombergNEF, explains:

“It can also help to explain why many of the world’s most eminent energy experts have underestimated the growth to date of renewable energy, and its future potential. If we consider that the electricity sector consumes about 38% of fossil fuel production; and that renewables make up 25% of electricity, and wind and solar PV make up 25% of that, it easy to see how these technologies can get lost in the noise of a much larger primary energy analysis.”

This also means that the easiest way to replace fossil fuel dominance of primary energy is to electrify key sub-sectors such as residential heating and industrial processes, so that they can be powered directly from the new clean energy system.

The JP Morgan paper, in contrast, spends a lot of energy using fossil fuel’s dominance of primary energy to explore how industrial processes like steel and cement remain carbon-intensive and heavily fossil fuel dependent. It describes chemicals, pulp, paper, food, glass, brick and cement as “hard to electrify”, and claims:

“The challenge: low/medium electrification potential sectors use 2.5x the energy as high potential sectors. Even if we assume that all sectors are eventually electrified using new technologies, there’s still a large increase in cost. In addition to upfront switching costs, industrial companies would face costs per unit of energy that are 3x-6x higher for electricity than for direct natural gas. Electric heating efficiency gains vs combustion could offset part of this cost, but not all of it.”

But these unsubstantiated figures are related only to the framework of ‘switching’ within the incumbent system dominated by fossil fuels, rather than understanding the ground-breaking systemic implications of an optimally-designed 100% solar, wind and battery system which, recent figures suggest, would potentially produce more net energy than the incumbent fossil fuel system.

Such a system would enable what RethinkX has called ‘super power’ – producing 3-5 times more energy than is generated today, at a fifth of the cost.

Far from being ‘hard to electrify’, this massive surplus electricity generated at near-zero marginal cost will allow us to cheaply electrify transportation, heating, industry, mining, and other forms of energy use to a degree completely impossible within the incumbent system.

Myth 6: Fossil fuels are a better investment than renewables

“We recommend that investors stick with oil & gas for now,” the JP Morgan paper says, citing the IEA Stated Policies scenario to justify the conclusion that “the world is not on track to strand a lot of oil and gas in the future.”

To justify this stance, the paper criticises forecasts from Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon Tracker referring to the imminent peak of global fossil fuel demand, saying that these are premature. However, it misrepresents even these forecasts.

In reality, Rocky Mountain cited Carbon Tracker which was referring to the DNV Energy Transition Outlook. The latter had concluded that “oil use may never again exceed 2019 levels”. The JP Morgan criticism offers little detailed assessment of this claim, nor does it acknowledge the broader evidence that peak fossil fuel demand is now unavoidable give or take a few years. Instead it sets up a narrative strawman to then ‘refute’ the idea that fossil fuels are facing an inevitable and imminent economic demise.

But even the IEA admits in its ‘net zero policies’ scenario that peak fossil fuel demand is imminent, and will occur by 2025 at the latest. And many other incumbent agencies converge with the DNV analysis – such as McKinsey (which sees peak oil demand at 2019), Boston Consulting, Rystad Energy, and even BP’s 2020 annual energy report.

Whether or not it might be premature to see peak fossil fuel demand happening as early as 2019, what one hopes to receive from a paper by JP Morgan is a balanced analysis of genuine use to investors. Instead we have a dogmatic approach hellbent on trying to show that fossil fuels are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

The evidence suggests, instead, that what comes next is very much dependent on societal choices. Bad decisions can indeed prolong the life of fossil fuel industries to some degree, but cannot ultimately stave off the economics of disruption. Such decisions are not due to market factors reflecting rational economic processes.

Instead, the economic analysis consistently suggests that one way or another fossil fuels have entered a downwards spiral of economic decline. Disruptions happen because of economic forces. As the new technologies are so much cheaper, the displacement of incumbent industries happens fast due precisely to the catastrophic financial consequences of failing to do so.

Renewable energy systems are vastly more economically competitive than conventional power plants in a fair market. Data shows that renewable energy systems are already cheaper than fossil fuel systems in most regions, and there is evidence I’ve assessed elsewhere indicating that their net energy returns are also already higher and will likely continue improving over time even while EROI for fossil fuels continues to decline. Together, these metrics provide a clear indication of where the economics is pointing: that renewables and technologies linked to them are outcompeting fossil fuels, and will increasingly disrupt them at an accelerating rate as this reality eventually becomes inescapable.

The incumbency faces disruption not just from one technology, but multiple. As costs continue to plummet and performance continues to improve in the energy and transport disruptions – both now happening exponentially – they are heading toward finally becoming up to ten times cheaper over the next two decades, a cost differential which is consistently associated with mass adoption, and the swift obsolesce of incumbent industries. The biggest danger to investors is complacency about what’s coming.

Myth 7: EVs are overvalued and internal combustion engines will be in business for many decades

That brings me to JP Morgan’s claim that EVs are vastly overvalued, and that investors are therefore going to lose their shirts. There may well be some valid grounds to believe some EV companies are overvalued – stock markets do operate in a way that routinely permits unsustainable bubbles. However, the JP Morgan paper appears to use this to imply that the EV disruption of conventional auto industries is not going to happen, and that they are on an equal footing with the disruptors.

The intellectually dishonest nature of this analysis can be seen when we factor in the deeper reality, once again completely ignored by the JP Morgan paper, that if we are going to be genuinely concerned about the overvaluation of assets or companies, it’s not EV companies where the action is. Rather, it’s fossil fuel investments that for decadeshave been vastly overvalued – in fact, strictly speaking, they already constitute stranded assets.

As RethinkX co-founder Tony Seba observed last year, “the fossil fuel industries and their value chains are already technically bankrupt”. Without $6 trillion a year subsidies, “these industries would collapse under their own economic dead-weight.”

Indeed, when using accurate data for the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), solar, wind and batteries are already cheaper than conventional energy in most regions of the world, which is getting more expensive with time.

In other words, LCOE figures are actually far, far higher for conventional power plants than recognised by incumbent agencies like the IEA and EIA. The implication is stunning. It means that trillions of dollars of investments in these assets, premised on valuations linked to LCOE, cannot generate projected profits based on these figures. This means that conventional power generation assets, and assets across the entire value chain (from mines to wells to refineries to pipelines to ports to ships) are already vastly overvalued and will never meet hoped for returns. In other words, there is now a large and rapidly expanding financial bubble around conventional coal, gas, nuclear, and hydropower energy assets. The real scale of this overvalued trillion dollar bubble, built up over decades, is therefore massive.

Yet, for some reason, JP Morgan’s paper appears to suggest that it’s more important to argue that EV companies are overvalued in the market, and that investors will lose money investing in EVs – rather than in fossil fuel assets whose real economic value is already “technically bankrupt.”

Overall, JP Morgan’s suggestion that EVs are rising far too slowly to generate a disruption to conventional auto industries is seriously mistaken. All the data shows that EV cost curves are declining exponentially, and that adoption is at the beginning of the S curve. Mass deployment is happening faster than RethinkX previously forecast, not slower.

Arguably, the analysis fails to appreciate the economic factors behind why a company like Tesla might receive such high valuations. If the RethinkX, Oxford and other projections are remotely accurate, renewables, EVs and other disruptive technologies are opening up exponential economic opportunities and introducing tens of trillions of dollar savings. Clean energy systems will also introduce vast new business models. Companies at the forefront of these disruptions will therefore be in prime position. That the market might reflect these underlying economic dynamics is therefore not surprising – rather than indicating an EV bubble that will collapse, it indicates an EV growth trajectory that will permanently and inevitably disrupt companies invested in internal combustion engines.

Even conventional analyses bear this out. Last July, for instance, Ernst & Young found that combined electric vehicle sales in the US, China and Europe will outstrip all other engine sales by 2033, and that by 2045, non-EV sales will shrink to less than 1% of overall sales. Needless to say, although this study came out a month after Arnott’s paper, JP Morgan ignores it.

In this context, it’s extremely difficult to take seriously the below graph in the JP Morgan report.

The graph is presented as if it implies that EVs and conventional auto industries are on an equal footing. Without even quibbling the presentation of the underlying data, it’s clear that these figures – limited to January 2021 – are already outdated, irrelevant and of little use to projecting where things are heading in 2022.

 

And those trends are not exactly invisible. From 2020 to 2021, EV sales doubled despite the pandemic as part of a continued exponential growth rate.

Colin Mckerracher, head of BloombergNEF’s transport analysis, argues that EV sales will near double again in 2022, comprising around one in seven of all vehicle sales. He concludes: “This is usually the tipping point for market adoption into the exponential growth phase of the S-curve.” Another analysis projecting forward this growth rate concluded that “most new vehicles” will have a plug in by 2027.

No wonder in January 2021, Morgan Stanley was seeing an entirely different reality, as reported here by Yahoo! Finance:

“New research from Morgan Stanley argues that traditional internal combustion engines – the mainstay of automobiles for more than a century – are destined to become money-losers as early as 2030. ‘We believe the market may be ascribing zero (or even negative?) value for ICE-derived revenues at GM and Ford,’ auto analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a Jan. 29 analysis. He lists a variety of factors likely to ‘transform what were once profit-generating assets into potentially loss-making and cash-burning businesses.’”

While these dynamics will not manifest immediately – taking time to unfold as EV costs continue to decline and mass adoption continues to accelerate – the JP Morgan report essentially keeps trying to say, in effect: ‘it’s not happening right now, so it won’t happen for decades and conventional industries are here to stay’: a verdict that is just not borne out by the data.

The paper also fails to understand the implications of the EV disruption, casting the longer lifespan of cars as an inhibitor to vehicle replacement that is slowing down adoption. The longer age of light vehicles “has the unintended consequence of delaying penetration of new technologies like EVs”, claims the paper. If there were any validity to this claim, EV sales would not be increasingly exponentially. In reality, it demonstrates a genuine incomprehension of how disruptions work.

EVs will replace internal combustion engine vehicles because they are cheaper, better and longer-lasting. As the disruption accelerates, these metrics will improve so dramatically that owning an ICE vehicle will be increasingly costly, self-defeating and pointless. As costs-per-mile declines, the EV disruption will kickstart ‘Transport-as-a-Service’ (TaaS) because it will end up being cheaper to travel in EV vehicle fleets run by a private firm or public agency than to own a car.

And the paper completely ignores how TaaS, too, will be transformed due to exponentially improving autonomous driving technology. As EVs hit mass adoption, the network effect of real-time autonomous driving data will accelerate this improvement, making self-driving EVs a reality quicker than most conventional analysts expect. This will make TaaS even cheaper as the cost of labour is removed, which will further accelerate the transport disruption. In short, all the signs of massive, rapid transformation in our energy and transport systems are now unmistakeable.

We can, of course, fundamentally agree with one contention of the JP Morgan report – that not every EV company currently receiving high valuations will necessarily survive. In a highly competitive market, we can expect many different disruptors to come and go before we know which companies make it at the end of a decade or two of disruptions. But one thing that is clear from the pattern of disruption in history is that incumbents generally do not survive disruptions, because they are incapable of understanding the dynamics of the disruptive technologies that displace them – they are locked, instead, into the prevailing, old value chains, mindset and paradigm that are all about to be swept away.

The JP Morgan paper does not, in my view, offer its investor clients genuine insights into the prospects of the unfolding energy transformation. But it does offer a brilliantly insightful window into the Ostrich-like mentality of the incumbency: desperately trying to convince itself, and more importantly its investors, that change is not coming, and that it will be so expensive and difficult to transform our energy and transport systems, that business-as-usual is going to continue virtually indefinitely.

None of this means the path ahead will be easy. But the biggest obstacle to transformation does not come from inadequacies in solar, wind and batteries, or EVs. It comes from institutions like JP Morgan which, unwittingly or otherwise, appear to be in denial about the unstoppable clean energy disruption that is unfolding right now, and sadly as a result capable of promoting egregious misinformation in pursuit of that denial.

Source: Rethink X

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