Afternoon, Deloitte

The consulting firm Deloitte recently released a report entitled “Every Company Is An Energy Company (And If It Isn’t, It Will Be Soon)”.

The main message is that, with increasing energy prices, it will be imperative for every company to consider how to reduce energy consumption in its buildings and its shipping/fleet, as well as what kind of self-production of electricity and/or heat.

The secondary message is that a long-term shift to “values-based capitalism” is afoot.  Companies need to minimize their environmental footprint – in large part, through their energy strategy – because customers, shareholders and employees alike are increasingly demanding that companies do so.

The authors, Nick Main (Deloitte’s Global Managing Partner of Climate Change and Sustainability) and Joseph Stanislaw (independent senior advisor to Deloitte), make the case that the clean energy game is just beginning:  Clean Energy 1.0 will evolve to Clean Energy 2.0 and 3.0 and so on over the generations to come.  And, it will take generations, because the energy asset base is long-lived and human behaviors of those making decisions are hard to change.

More bluntly, good ideas often become widely adopted only when those opposing the good ideas die off.

It is notable that Deloitte’s white paper appears to be aiming for, and solely references (with one exception:  National Grid (NYSE: NGG)), companies that are currently only consumers of energy — and major consumer brands to boot:  Unilever (NYSE: UN), IBM (NYSE: IBM), United Parcel System (NYSE: UPS), Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP).  The text is essentially silent in its (potential) messages to companies that are energy suppliers themselves or that supply to the energy industry. 

Is it because Deloitte has already told this message in another format to companies that are already generating revenues (as opposed to incurring costs) from energy?  Or, is it because such companies just don’t like the message and don’t want to hear it again?

Will it take generational turnover in the energy sector itself before Deloitte’s story is more widely endorsed?

What If…?

…someone invents an economically-competitive energy storage technology that could be deployed at any electricity substation at megawatt-hour scale?

…the power grid were brought up to 21st Century standards to match the true power quality needs of our increasingly digital society?

…high-speed rail was not the exclusive province of Europe and Asia?

…customers had real choice about electricity supplies, via ubiquitously cost-effective on-site generation options?

…cities and industries pursued viable cogeneration options with real vigor, and companies like Echogen revolutionize the capture of waste heat?

…the use of fracking was reliably paired with other technologies and solid oversight to assure that local water quality is not harmed when shale gas is produced?

…recovering coal and tar sands was undertaken only via mining approaches that don’t leave huge gouges in the earth’s crust?

…all companies involved in the mining and burning of coal would honestly acknowledge and deal responsibly with the environmental challenges associated with coal?

carbon sequestration technologies are more than just a pipe dream and can be widely applied with confidence that no leakage will occur?

…environmentally-responsible technologies were commercialized to produce oil from shale in the Piceance Basin, making the U.S. self-sufficient for years to come?

Joule is really onto something and can produce liquid fuels for transportation directly from the sun?

…fuel cells expand beyond niche markets via continuing improvements in technology and economics to penetrate mass-market applications?

nuclear fusion could ever become viable as a technology for generating electricity?

…new technologies for the production and use of energy in a more environmentally-sustainable matter were responsible for a major share of new jobs and economic growth in the U.S.?

…we stopped sending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas every year to fight both sides of the war on terrorism?

…we stopped subsidizing mature and profitable forms of energy?

…we determined that climate change was simply too big of a risk to keep ignoring and decided to tackle the issue out of concern for the future?

…Americans were willing to pay at least a little bit more for energy to help defray the costs of pursuing much — and achieving at least some — of the above?

…we later found out that we didn’t spend that much more money and also found ourselves living on a healthier planet and in a more fiscally-solvent country with a viable industrial future?

…certain fossil fuel and other corporate interests would cease misinforming the public on many economic and environmental issues related to energy consumption?

…Democrats and Republicans could come together and do what’s best for the country rather than what’s best to strengthen or preserve their party’s political power?

…more Americans cared about the above than who wins American Idol, Survivor or Dancing With the Stars?