October 2022

The future of energy – power forward carbon free

The Scottish Mortgage Team

Key Points

  • The transport, agriculture and chemical industries are essential to the clean energy transition
  • Renewable energy costs are falling, creating the economic incentive to use more of it
  • By investing in companies that help us harness energy and resources more efficiently, Scottish Mortgage is investing in a brighter future

Energy is essential for our society to function. There is more to the clean energy transition than trying to reduce the impacts of climate change, vital as that is. Transport, agriculture and the chemicals industry, for example, all have essential roles to play.

Renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in many instances and costs are falling further with each passing year. This creates a huge economic incentive to speed up the transition to alternative energy, meaning a massive runway for growth ahead.

We address the future of transport elsewhere, but the opportunities extend beyond the vehicles we drive. It’s also the electric batteries and charging infrastructure needed to keep them running. As we approach an inflection point for electric vehicles, we should also expect an exponential demand for electric batteries to charge these cars.

Swedish battery developer Northvolt is expanding its manufacturing capacity to meet European demand. It relies on hydroelectric power to reduce the costs of manufacturing lithium-ion (Li-on) electric batteries and to keep its overall carbon footprint low.

Meanwhile in the US, ChargePoint is one of the world’s largest electric vehicle (EV) charging networks. It powered 750 million miles of driving in 2019; that number could exceed 50bn miles a decade from now.

But electrification poses it’s own environmental challenges. Currently, we do not have a sufficient supply of the raw materials needed – nickel, cobalt and lithium – to meet the anticipated demand for electric vehicles. If the infrastructure is not put in place to create a circular economy, the mining, manufacturing and disposal of electric batteries could carry large environmental costs of their own.

Redwood Materials, the electric battery recycling company, created by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel in 2017, aims to create such a circular economy, solving many of these challenges.

Farms use lots of heavy machinery, chemicals and water to grow the food we eat. As the global population grows, we will need to produce a lot more food from every acre of farmland without ramping up the usage of finite resources. Technological innovation will be critical to achieving this.

In this vein, Indigo Agriculture coats seeds with microbes to increase crop yields and thereby improve farmers’ profitability. Whilst Solugen uses synthetic biology to develop cleaner and greener chemical techniques which can be applied to agriculture and many other industries.

By investing in companies that enable us to harness energy and resources more efficiently, Scottish Mortgage is investing in a brighter future for all.

All investment strategies have the potential for profit and loss. Your or your clients’ capital may be at risk.

About the author - The Scottish Mortgage Team

The Scottish Mortgage team are dedicated to servicing existing and prospective shareholders of the trust.

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