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 May-2022, it contains 260 differentiated views on 140 public companies.

Wind and solar: costs of grid inter-connection?

What are the costs of inter-connecting a utility-scale wind or solar project into the power grid, via a spur line, grid tie-in or feeder?

This data-file assesses twenty case studies of renewables assets in North America, based on published inter-connection documents.

Costs are highly variable. But a good baseline is to expect $100-300/kW of grid inter-connection costs, or $3-10/kW-km, over a 10-70 km typical distance (which includes the length of downstream lines that must be upgraded). Larger and higher voltage projects tend to have lower tie-in costs.

What is most surprising is how vastly the ranges can vary. The lowest-cost tie-in was $25/kW, tying in a solar asset to a 230kV power line with spare capacity that is a mere 1-mile away. Whereas the highest-cost tie-in was $1,250/kW (i.e., more than the 40MW solar project itself!) where the asset owner was asked to contribute an eye-watering c$50M to cover the costs of upgrading 500km of high-voltage transmission lines downstream of the inter-connection point.

Power transmission: raising electrical potential?

Electricity transmission matters in the energy transition, integrating dispersed renewables over long distances to reach growing demand centers. This 15-page note argues future transmission needs will favor large HVDCs, costing 2-3c/kWh per 1,000km, which are materially lower-cost and more efficient than other alternatives. What opportunities follow?

California curtailment: key numbers from 2021?

This data-file tracks curtailment of wind and solar assets in Califonia, in order to assess the opportunity of integrating more renewables. c25% of Califonia’s total grid demand in 2021 was met by wind and solar energy generated in the State.

On average, 0.4% of the wind and 4% of the gross solar generation were curtailed throughout the year. But the data are highly variable.

Curtailment was highest in March, when 1% of the wind and 12% of the gross solar generation were curtailed. There were even five days in the year where over 30% of the solar was curtailed. On the other hand, August was the ‘best’ month, where only 0.3% of the wind and 0.9% of the solar generation was curtailed.

The uneven distribution is somewhat unhelpful for the economics of grid-scale batteries. We estimate that 10% of the curtailment could be avoided by the ‘best’ battery installations, which get to charge-discharge 360 days per year. Another 7% could be avoided by the next bext battery installations, which get to charge-discharge c300 days per year. And so on.

However, the final 50% of the curtailment would require resorting to low utilization batteries, which only get to charge-discharge on fewer than 70 days per year, raising their costs, lowering their EROEI.

First Solar: thin film solar breakthrough?

First Solar is a solar panel manufacturer, listed in the US, founded in 1999, employing 6,400 people. It has capacity to manufacture 8GW of solar panels per year, using CdTe thin film technology.

Things to like about its technology are that they use about 60% less energy and emit about 60% less CO2 than photovoltaic silicon. First Solar also has manufacturing facilities in Ohio, satisfying the growing desire to re-shore the supply chain.

Efficiency is usually lower for CdTe solar, stated “up to 18.6%” for First Solar’s Series 6 cells, whereas we generally assume 20-25% for PV silicon. However, 70% of the patents in our review were focused on improving efficiency, and thus we might speculate whether improvements lie ahead.

There are also drawbacks to the technology and issues highlighted in the patent screen.


Energy development times: first consideration to full production?

This data-file assesses the development times of different energy resources, from their first consideration, through permitting, up to final investment decision (FID), across construction, and ultimately as they reach nameplate capacity.

Full cycle development times tend to average c4-years for large solar projects, 6-years for large offshore wind, 7-years for new pipelines, 7-years for new oil and gas projects, 9-years for new LNG plants and 13-years for new nuclear plants. There is a spread within each category.

As a rough split, these timings break down as 40% planning, 50% construction and 10% ramp-up/commissioning. The best projects in each category are often around 50% faster than the average.

Full details are given for each of the 35 projects in the data-file, in order to stress-test our ability to cure energy shortages by ramping new projects.

Nuclear fusion: what are the challenges?

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.

Glass fiber: what upside in the energy transition?

Glass fiber makes up 50% of a wind turbine blade, lightens vehicles and insulates homes for 30-70% energy savings. Hence we see demand rising 3.5x in the energy transition. To appraise the opportunity, this 13-page note assesses the market, costs, CO2 intensity and leading companies.

Wind turbines: screen of resin and polymer specialists?

This data-file tabulates details for 20 companies that make epoxy- or polyurethane resins and adhesives, especially those that feed into the construction of wind turbines.

We think there are 5 public companies ex-China with 5-35% proportionate exposure to this sub-segment of the wind industry, which could therefore be exposed to an acceleration of wind capacity-building. 3 companies stood out in particular and our highlighted in the data-file.

For each example, we have tabulated their approximate size, geography, patent filings, employee-county and estimated their exposure to wind turbine polymers.

Renewables: can they ramp up faster?

How fast can wind and solar accelerate, especially if energy shortages persist? This 11-page note reviews the top ten bottlenecks that set the ‘upper limit’ on renewables’ capacity additions. Seven value chains will tighten enormously in the coming years. Paradoxically, however, ramping renewables could exacerbate near-term energy shortages.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.