Apr 5, 2019

Axios Generate

By Ben Geman
Ben GemanAmy Harder

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Breaking: "European Union antitrust regulators on Friday charged BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen with colluding to block the rollout of emissions cleaning technology in a move that could lead to hefty fines," Reuters reports.

Ok let's head for the weekend. At this moment 25 years ago, OutKast was in the midst of a multi-week run atop Billboard's rap charts with today's into tune...

1 big thing: EV opportunities and costs
Expand chart

Reproduced from Accenture; Chart: Axios Visuals

Two reports crossed my screen with interesting stuff on how the rise of electric vehicles is shaking up at least two mammoth industries: Autos (duh), but eventually utilities too.

The big picture: The consultancy Accenture put some numbers around how EV deployment (their projections are in the chart above) is a business opportunity for power companies.

They see a potential $2 trillion-plus market for utilities in the U.S. and Europe alone within the next couple decades.

  • A lot of that is power sales, up to $1.7 trillion in those markets by 2040. But they also see higher margin business lines. One is a $400 billion market in public and private charging infrastructure by 2040, and money to be made offering other various services.

The market for services will be broad. Utilities can get into financing vehicle and battery sales and leasing; charging station maintenance; remote charging and all kinds of other things, like...

  • "Platforms that enable other services designed to create a seamless, more satisfying customer experience—such as integrated home-EV energy management, charge point navigation, charging reservations, battery management or payment processing—would also be valuable to customers."

But let's remember that for all the excitement around EVs, these are also risky times for automakers as they try and position themselves.

2. The EV path to meeting emission targets

That brings me to a new analysis from Moody's Investors Services, which notes that automakers in Europe, China and U.S. must invest to meet emissions mandates, with EVs as a key pathway.

Threat level: The report explores, among other things, how automakers in Europe need to electrify to help limit billions of dollars in cumulative fines for noncompliance with tightening carbon rules.

The intrigue: Diesel emissions scandals that have engulfed several European automakers are creating more pressure to go electric more quickly.

  • That's because the "dieselgate" is making it harder to hit CO2 goals, because those cars typically have lower CO2 output than gasoline-powered vehicles, yet consumers are switching away from them.

The bottom line: "Time is running out to deliver electrification of production, especially in Europe where targets are set for 2020-21, with significant penalties for noncompliance," Moody's states.

  • The report later notes: "[C]ompanies active in the European market will need to keep investing in low-carbon technologies to align with the region’s targets to maintain progress through 2030."

Go deeper: Carmakers on course for $2-12bn fines for missing EU CO2 targets: Moody’s (Climate Home News)

3. The newest Dem hopeful on energy and climate

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan joined the Democratic 2020 field yesterday and chatted with The Washington Post about his climate and energy stance.

Why it matters: He spent a good chunk of time on those topics and wove them into a broader focus on industrial policy, another sign that climate is no longer on the backburner in national elections.

And Ryan called for a "Green New Deal," which shows how much the term is now in the Democratic bloodstream, although candidates define it differently.

The big picture: "Judging by this first interview, Ryan’s approach — at least for now — appears to lean more directly on incentivizing business investment than it does on direct public expenditures," Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent report.

  • "However, when asked what scale of public investments in renewable energies he’d be willing to support, Ryan said, 'we need to sit down with experts in these fields, but it needs to be significant.'"

One level deeper: Ryan said President Trump's emphasis on China fails to counter their outsized role in clean energy tech with a national U.S. strategy on EVs and renewables.

He told the Post: "'This campaign is going to be about the big idea that creates a national industrial policy' that says to China, 'we’re gonna out-compete you.'"

Goals include:

  • Tax incentives for low-carbon tech (note: I'm curious to see how much further than the existing provisions he wants to go) and "distressed communities."
  • Boosting the number of college graduates in STEM.
  • Incentivizing farmers on carbon capture.
  • Ensuring coal workers are "plugged into the new economy."

* * *

Speaking of politics, the lefty think tank Data for Progress has tallied one metric of climate's role in the primary fight: how much the candidates are tweeting about it.

Jay Inslee is way ahead, no shock given that his campaign is basically about climate. Rounding out the top 5: Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, John Delaney and Kirsten Gillibrand.

4. Two legal things: Tesla and FirstEnergy

Electricity: Via The Wall Street Journal, "A bankruptcy judge rejected FirstEnergy Corp.’s $3.1 billion attempt to walk away from a fleet of failing power plants, siding with regulators who want the parent company on the hook for pollution cleanup costs."

  • Why it matters: The case involving the 2018 bankruptcy of subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. is a high-profile example of the wider struggles of coal-fired and nuclear plant operators trying to compete against cheap natural gas at a time of stagnant demand.

Tweeting: "Tesla, Elon Musk and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have two weeks to work out their differences and come to a new resolution, a U.S. judge said Thursday at the conclusion of a hearing held to determine whether the automaker’s CEO should be held in contempt for his Twitter use," TechCrunch reports.

  • Where it stands: Per Reuters, "The hearing appeared to lift an overhang over Tesla, as the SEC stopped well short of recommending Musk’s removal as chief executive or even from the electric car company’s board."
  • One colorful quote: “Take a deep breath, put your reasonableness pants on, and work this out,” U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan told the two sides at the hearing.
5. States are taking the lead on EVs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

State governors, and not the federal government, are emerging as the leaders on vehicle electrification and automated vehicle deployments, writes Axios Expert Voices contributor Colleen Quinn.

Why it matters: With the flexibility to experiment with infrastructure solutions and policy frameworks, states often serve as incubators for tech innovations. The governors who enable AV programs may well ensure that the U.S. remains a leader in the AV space.

What's happening: California's leadership on EVs provides a valuable model, dating back to requirements for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) it rolled out in the 1990s.

  • In 2018, Jerry Brown signed an executive order calling for $2.5 billion in EV–related investments, and convened the Global Climate Action Summit to secure commitments based on the Paris climate goals.
  • California’s EVs alone accounted for 46.8% of U.S. sales in 2018, and 10 other states have now adopted the ZEV mandate, which requires that a percentage of vehicles produced for sale in that state be ZEVs.

On the AV front, 20 states currently allow testing or deploying of autonomous vehicles, and a decision in Utah is pending.

Go deeper in the Axios stream

Colleen Quinn is a policy adviser and president of EMobility Advisors. She served on the Massachusetts Commission on the Future of Transportation, appointed by Governor Charles Baker.

6. Number of the day: 32

That's last year's percentage growth in energy-related exports from Texas, via this new Dallas Fed snapshot.

Why it matters: The short report on the Texas economy shows the prominence of energy to the state's economy. Here's a little more...

  • "The real (inflation-adjusted) value of Texas exports reached $315 billion in 2018. Energy-related products, including oil, gas, petroleum products (mainly gasoline) and petrochemicals led the way."
  • "While energy-related exports grew 32 percent last year, Texas exports absent energy-related products only grew 2.3 percent."
Ben GemanAmy Harder