The Top Public Companies for an Energy Transition

This data-file compiles all of our insights into publicly listed companies and their edge in the energy transition: commercialising economic technologies that advance the world towards ‘net zero’ CO2 by 2050.

Each insight is a differentiated conclusion, derived from a specific piece of research, data-analysis or modelling on the TSE web portal; summarized alongside links to our work. Next, the data-file ranks each insight according to its economic implications, technical readiness, its ability to accelerate the energy transition and the edge it confers on the company in question.

Each company can then be assessed by adding up the number of differentiated insights that feature in our work, and the average ‘score’ of each insight. The file is intended as a summary of our differentiated views on each company.

The screen is updated monthly. At the latest update, in February-2021, it contains 200 differentiated views on 100 public companies.

The Top 40 Private Companies for an Energy Transition

This data-file presents the ‘top 40’ private companies out of several hundred that have crossed our screens since the inception of Thunder Said Energy, looking back across all of our research.

For each company, we have used apples-to-apples criteria to score  economics, technical readiness, technical edge, decarbonization credentials and our own depth of analysis.

The data-file also contains a short, two-line description follows for each company, plus links to our wider research, which will outline each opportunity in detail.

Integrated energy: a new model?

This 14-page note lays out a new model to supply fully carbon-neutral energy to a cluster of commercial and industrial consumers, via an integrated package of renewables, low-carbon gas back-ups and nature based carbon removals. This is remarkable for three reasons: low cost, high stability, and full technical readiness. The prize may be very large.

Heat pumps: a screen of providers and reviews?

This data-file tabulates our subjective opinions on c20 different heat pump companies, and our own preferences to use their heat pump on a future European residential heating project.

Factors we have considered include pricing, reliability, efficiency, company size, the range of models, integration with home smart energy systems, and visual/acoustic properties.

A large portion of the work was based on tabulating customer reviews, from online forums. A key challenge is opacity, as many companies do not provide full pricing details on their models or have many customer reviews.

Allometry: how much CO2 in a tree or forest?

This data-file contains cleaned-up allometry equations to quantify the amount of CO2 captured by a tree, based on its height and its diameter at 1.3m height (DBH).

Covered in the data-file are six of the most important tree species in Europe: aspen, alder, birch, oak, pine and spruce.

Variations are also noted in the data-file, in order to quantify the ‘error of the estimate’ when measuring forest carbon.

Reforestation: a real-life roadmap?

This 12-page note sets out an early-stage ambition for Thunder Said Energy to reforest former farmland in Estonia, producing high-quality CO2 credits in a biodiverse forest. The primary purpose would be to stress-test nature-based carbon removals in our roadmap to net zero, and understand the bottlenecks. IRRs can also surpass 10% at $35-50/ton CO2.

Energy transition: the top ten controversies?

This 11-page note summarizes the ‘top ten’ controversies in the energy transition, based on 2,000 pages of our research to-date, and resultant discussions. Our outlook is increasingly despairing. And inflationary. Yet opportunities do exist to unlock value amidst bizarre and market-distorting policies.

Climeworks: direct air capture breakthrough?

Climeworks is a private, Swiss company, founded in 2009, commercializing a direct air capture technology, to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. It has raised $125M by early-2021.

Its first CO2 removals facility is also running and a second is under construction. Current CO2 removal costs are likely above $1,000/ton. It uses a dry process with much lower water intensity than, say, Carbon Engineering.

The main innovation visible in Climeworks’ patents is a DAC plant with optimized air flow, passing CO2 through layers of fabric housing CO2-adsorbing materials. This is an important breakthrough to avoid steep pressure drops (and their resultant energy penalties) in DAC.

Based on reviewing Climeworks’ patents, we were unable to de-risk sub-$200/ton CO2 costs, which is the base case in our economic models.  

Ethanol: hangover cures?

Could new technologies reinvigorate corn-based ethanol? This 12-page  note assesses three options. We are constructive on combining CCS or CO2-EOR with an ethanol plant, which yields a carbon-negative fuel. But costs and CO2 credentials look more challenging for bio-plastics or alcohol-to-jet fuels.

Ethanol from corn: the economics?

This data-file captures the economics of producing ethanol from corn in the United States,  based on technical papers and industry data-points.

Our base case calculations suggest a price of $1.6/gallon of ethanol is needed for a 10% IRR on a new greenfield plant, equivalent to $2.4/gallon gasoline.

This is higher than 2020 ethanol pricing, which was enough to break even on a cash basis, but not for economic returns. Corn prices are the crucial input.

Finally, recent industry data are tabulated, showing how the US diverts c40% of its corn crop into biofuels rather than food and feed (below).