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The New Energy Letter: August 2020

Since our last new energy letter, the shift in focus has moved from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, to how we recover – and how “green” this recovery is. I have growing confidence that the recovery will drive acceleration in some aspects of the energy transition. There will of course be major economic challenges ahead, and the energy sector is not immune to these - but the fundamental drivers of the energy transition remain unchanged. It is encouraging to see signs of a commitment to “building back better – and greener” from Brussels and in some European capitals. The decisions being made now will determine the speed and nature of the energy transition over the years and decades ahead – and as such, influence business models, strategies and opportunities for companies in new energy.

The most detailed glimpse so far of just what this recovery will look like, was revealed in the European Commission’s Recovery Plan to “repair and prepare for the next generation” – which sets aside €750bn for a Green Recovery (plus longer-term budget reinforcements). It clearly signals that this recovery should be clean, circular, competitive and climate neutral. So what does this mean for new energy? Five points catch my interest, which create fantastic opportunities for the energy industry, if it is ready to capture them.

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Shell’s dividend cut could be a seminal moment for the energy transition

I’ve always argued that the acid test for Big Oil and their commitment to active, positive participation in the energy transition will come when the oil price crashes. When that happens, will they revert to their core businesses of fossil fuel extraction and processing, while cutting back on less profitable and non-core activities such as new energy? 

That moment has arrived. Oil prices have crashed to multi-decade lows as demand has plummeted following the stalling of the world economy, while oil supply has been much slower to respond. 

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Even with a long term reduction in gas and oil prices, the boiler market is under threat to 2025

A long term reduction in gas and oil prices has minimal impact on our forecasts for the European heating market to 2025, with a range of emerging technologies continuing to threaten the dominance of the traditional boiler across Europe as the share of oil and gas boilers declines.

This highlights that key players and energy suppliers need to continue to embrace higher efficient and lower carbon heating products, even in the light of the lower fuel prices we are currently experiencing.

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