Energy units: life, the universe and everything?

Energy units

Energy is the glue of our universe. Literally everything is at some level an energy flow – from viewing this text, to the outcomes of wars, to matter itself – which can all be expressed in Joules and kWh. Hence this 16-page overview is a useful reference, to translate from any energy units to any others; for comparisons; and to understand the units in energy transition.

CO2 intensity: Scope 1, 2 & 3 and Scope 4 emissions?

Scope 4 emissions of different energy sources

This database aims to calculate the Scope 1, 2, 3 and Scope 4 emissions of different energy sources, fuels and decarbonization investments, on a bottom up basis. The numbers vary vastly, from -1.25 kg/kWh to +1.25 kg/kWh, and offer a more constructive view for funding decarbonization initiatives.

Specifically, we take examples in coal, oil, gas, biofuels, wind, solar, nuclear, hydrogen, CCUS, EVs, heat pumps and forestry. Next we calculate the Scope 1&2 CO2 emissions involved in producing the energy product. Then we calculate the Scope 3 CO2 emissions involved in using the product. Finally, we deduct the Scope 4 CO2 emissions that are avoided via using this energy product versus the most likely counterfactual.

For example, generating 1 MWH of power from coal emits 1.15 tons of CO2. Generating that same 1 MWH of power from natural gas emits 0.45 tons of CO2, resulting in a net saving of 0.7 tons of CO2. Thus $1bn invested in natural gas power plants, debatably, will save over 100MT of total CO2 over the lifetime of the plant. This is actually more than the 40MT of total lifetime CO2 that will be saved by investing $1bn into wind or solar.

Looking at the numbers in these terms is instructive, as it will promote an ‘all of the above’ approach to decarbonizing global energy.

Decision-makers may wish to use numbers in the data-file to illustrate the Scope 1-4 CO2 associated with investment decisions and production. In many cases, there is a good argument that energy investments will offer net CO2 reductions on a Scope 1-4 basis.

The file calculates full Scope 1 – Scope 4 emissions of different energy sources, in kg/boe, kg/kWh, tons/ton, tons/$bn and TWH/$bn metrics for all the different energy products. We are also happy to help TSE subscription clients explore bespoke cuts of the data. We have also published back-up research on the philosophy of CO2 accounting.

Political shifts: do energy shortages cause revolutions?

from energy shortages to revolutions

We tabulated data from 138 elections over 60 years in 7 countries. When food and energy prices spike, there is a 75% chance of government change. Revolutions can sometimes be triggered by food-energy shortages too. Hence this 14-page note evaluates whether major policy changes are coming?

Energy transition: wheel of time?

Energy transition mega-trends

This 15-page note reflects on the last 15-years of energy, the world and our own experiences. Mega-trends do not move in straight lines. The world has often changed direction, getting waylaid by unexpected crises. Thus we wonder if energy transition goals, policies, and solutions may shift?

Renewables: share of global energy and electricity by country?

Renewables share of global energy

This data-file is an Excel “visualizer” for some of the key headline metrics around renewables’ share of global energy: such as total global energy use, electricity generation by source, wind penetration and solar penetration; broken down country-by-country, and showing how these metrics have changed over time, in an easy-to-compare visual format.

Global useful energy consumption stood at 71,000 TWH in 2021, rising at 2.5% per year in the past decade. It will most likely continue rising to over 100,000 TWH pa by 2050 (data here).

Electricity comprises 40% of total useful energy, with 28,000 TWH generated in 2021, and the remainder is for heat, motion, materials.

Electricity’s 40% share (as a percent of total useful energy) has changed remarkably little over the past decade, in our assessment, although electricity did increase from 15% to 17% of total primary energy.

Wind and solar now comprise 10% of all global electricity, of which two-thirds is wind, one-third is solar; making up 13.5% of OECD electricity and 8% of non-OECD.

Wind and solar’s 10% share is up from 2.3% a decade ago. This 7.7% increase has displaced coal (41% to 36%), but more disappointingly for CO2 intensity, also nuclear (12% to 10%) and hydro (16% to 15%), while natural gas remains at 22-23%.

The “renewables frontier” is that Spain, Portugal and Ireland are generating 30% of their electricity from wind and solar in 2021, followed by the UK, Germany and California at 25-30%. (Denmark has generated 50-60% from wind/solar since 2017, but this high penetration is achieved by exporting power).

Slow-downs. The ramp to 20-25% occurred more quickly in some of these countries, while the subsequent ramp to 25-30% sometimes (not always) occurred more slowly, and this may be the time that storage and demand-shifting start becoming more important.

Intermittency markets? Most countries in our screen are on course to reach 30% wind and solar penetrations within 5-10 years, again suggesting the dawn of demand-shifting, storage and intermittency solutions in this timeframe.

The cleanest grids in the world, however, belong to Norway (91% hydro, 8% wind) and Sweden (42% hydro, 31% nuclear, 16% wind), where nuclear and hydro can also buffer renewables (note here).

China, India and Indonesia together comprise c40% of global electricity and retain over c60% coal in their power mixes.

Despite rising renewables, coal-fired electricity, gas-fired electricity, total oil, coal and gas use are all making new highs in 2021-22. Our overview of China’s coal trajectory is here.

The source for this visualizer into renewables’ share of global energy is the exceptionally useful and thorough data provided in BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy (linked here). The analysis, data-scrubbing and visualizations are our own.

To read our recent commentary on renewables share of global energy, please see our article here.

Savanna carbon: great plains?

Savanna Carbon

Savannas are an open mix of trees, brush and grasses. They comprise up to 20% of the world’s land, 30% of its annual CO2 fixation, and we estimate their active management could abate 1GTpa of CO2 at low cost. This 17-page research note was inspired by exploring some wild savannas and thus draws on photos, observation, anecdotes, technical papers.

Top Public Companies In Energy Transition

Some of the top public companies in energy transition are aggregated in this data-file, looking across over 1,000 items of research into the energy transition published to date by Thunder Said Energy.

The data file should be useful for subscription clients of Thunder Said Energy, if you are looking for a helpful summary of all of our research to-date, how it reflects upon public companies, and links to explore those companies in more detail, across our other research.

Specifically, the file allows you to filter different companies according to (a) listing country (b) size — i,e., small-cap, mid-cap, large-cap, mega-cap (c) Sector — e.g., energy, materials, capital goods, OEMs (d) TSE resarch — and whether the work we had done made us incrementally more optimistic, or cautious, on this company’s role generating economic returns while advancing the energy transition.

A back-up tab then reviews all of our research to date, going back to 2019, and how we think that specific research conclusion might impact upon specific companies. This exercise is not entirely perfect, due to the large number of themes, criss-crossing a large number of companies, at a large number of different points in time. Hence the observations in this data-file should not be interpreted as investment recommendations.

The screen is updated monthly. At the latest update, in September-2022, it contains 285 differentiated views on 148 top public companies in energy transition.

Top Private Companies In Energy Transition?

Some of the top private companies in energy transition are aggregated in this data-file, looking across over 1,000 items of research into the energy transition published to date by Thunder Said Energy.

The data-file was last updated on the website in September-2022, and contains 55 companies, out of several hundred that have crossed our screens. It should be useful for subscription clients of Thunder Said Energy, if you are looking for a helpful summary of all of our research to-date, how it reflects upon private companies, and links to explore those companies in more detail.

For each company, we have used apples-to-apples criteria to help compare and contrast their advantages, opportunities and challenges,

(1) Economics should be able to support double-digit cash margins, long-term growth and IRRs that are well above 10%. We assess economics across over 130 different economic models.

(2) Technical readiness means that a technology can be de-risked, and does not face a long pathway towards commercialization. We have also published an overview of technical readiness levels.

(3) A technical edge means that a company has some kind of moat around its product. Often, we assess this by reviewing the company’s patents.

(4) Decarbonization credentials denote whether the company’s technology will abate large amounts of CO2, or conversely, smaller amounts of CO2. Again, this will likely be based on our economic models and CO2 screening work.

(5) Depth of analysis. For some companies, we have simply noted them in passing, while researching specific aspects of the energy transition. For others, we have written entire, deep-dive research notes, helping us to understand these companies in more detail.

The data-file also contains a short, two-line description follows for each of our top private companies in the energy transition, plus links to our wider research, which will outline each opportunity in detail.

Nuclear fusion: what are the challenges?

challenges of nuclear fusion

Nuclear fusion could provide a limitless supply of zero-carbon energy from the 2030s onwards. Thus 30 private companies have raised $4bn to progress new ideas. But the goal of this 20-page note is simply to understand the challenges for fusion reactors, especially deuterium-tritium tokamaks. Innovations need to improve EROI, stability, longevity and ultimate costs.

Decarbonization targets: what do the data tell us?

The most comprehensive and useful online resource we have found to track different companies’ net zero commitments is The database is freely downloadable under a Creative Commons license. However, we have attempted to clean it up in this data-file, including some additional fields and analytics.

The result is 630 companies that have pledged to reach some definition of ‘net zero’. Although the commitments are somewhat skewed towards easier-to-decarbonize sectors, such as financials (22%), TMT (6%), professional services (5%), retail (5%), healthcare (4%).

The average year to achieve this is 2044, although again, it varies by sector, and easer-to-decarbonize sectors tend to have sooner-dated targets.

A key question is credibility. 20% of the companies are deemed to have unclear decarbonization objectives and 45% are assessed to lack a clear plan to reach their goals (interestingly, energy companies scored above average on both of these metrics, at 16% and 27%, which squares with our own experience that some sectors are working hard to tackle CO2).

Another key question is scope. We were impressed to find that 50% of companies are including Scope 3 emissions in their decarbonization targets.

Finally, the list is substantively composed of large public companies, of which 40% are in Europe, 30% are in the US, 15% in Japan, c5% in both Australia and Canada. Clearly if you are a large public company, operating in these geographies, then investors are increasingly going to start ‘marking you down’ if you do not have clear decarbonization targets. On the other hand, private companies and emerging world companies are vastly under-represented in this data-file, which will re-awaken old fears over industrial leakage, and re-iterates the need for practical and economic decarbonization.

In the spirit of open source data, our clean-up of the database is free to download, in case it is useful for you, or helps inform your own company’s decarbonization targets.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.