Electric cars, LED lighting, reusable bags; many a green innovation has gone mainstream in recent years – and now energy storage is joining the list.
With new tech start-ups entering the scene this year to produce storage batteries, costs for storing energy are set to fall, making 2016 the year of battery storage around the world.
Why the focus on storage? More companies are turning to wind and solar energy but weather patterns are far from consistent. By storing the energy produced in batteries, it can be released for use when it is needed, and not only throughout the day, but from season to season as well.
Energy storage has already taken off in some markets around the world, driven by renewable energy generation, but has largely been overlooked so far in Britain, mainly because of the high cost of implementing storage technologies.
In some markets, such as the US, Germany, and Japan, energy storage is being used commercially. In the US, about 13 per cent of electricity comes from renewable sources and in Germany it equates to around 30 per cent of electricity consumed. And the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) pumped $700 million into energy storage for Japan in 2015.
Investing now to build energy storage systems that take advantage of local, renewable resources could ultimately save companies money by paving the way to energy independence. “It’s a huge advantage to keep energy locally and bring it back locally when you need it, without having to transport it across the country,” says Franz Jenowein, Sustainability Consulting Director at JLL.
The cost of energy storage needs to come down for the commercial real estate industry to embrace it. “Although there’s excitement around the numbers, it might take up to 10 years for companies to get their return on investment,” says Jenowein.
Knowledge of a new technology is one thing; actually using it is quite another. The photovoltaic (PV) effect, responsible for converting light into energy, for example, isn’t new: a 19-year-old French physicist discovered it in 1839.
“Solar PV panels were first used by space satellites in the late 1950s. And battery storage technology has come a long way, but it’s only really come onto the radar with Tesla,” says Jenowein who noted that the premium, electric vehicle automaker used a “very clever communications strategy to make something as geeky as a battery attractive.”
Introducing super batteries
Batteries, pumped-storage systems, ice storage, and heat thermal storage make up some of the more common energy storage technologies for use during peak demand to bring grid usage down and to compensate for peak electricity tariffs. But super batteries, the same types that power electric vehicles, are the current focus of tech companies ever since Tesla introduced the Powerwall energy storage system for homes in May 2015.
Energy stored in batteries provides a promising way to store renewable energy for buildings, too. They can power lights, computers, heating and cooling equipment during peak times, can take over during power outages, and they provide an alternative to fossil fuel powered back-up generators.
Storage battery systems have two functions. “The beauty is that you not only generate energy, but you also have an energy holding technology. Batteries can be connected to the power grid, potentially playing a key role in the emerging smart grids,” says Jenowein. Once you put energy storage systems in buildings and connect to the grid, they become part of this new energy ecosystem.
Getting into the act
More UK tech start-ups are getting into the act by developing their own storage batteries, which they can sell to commercial building owners, in a sort of “storage war” competition, with companies such as Powervault, Moixa Technology, and redT.
Powervault, for example, plans to “take on Tesla” by providing home energy storage systems for British homeowners. Moixa’s system is for residential and commercial uses, and redT’s is for industrial and utility-scale usage.
Although this technology is still prohibitively expensive for widespread use, as production increases and more companies get into the game, prices will go down. “Costs are expected to fall 40 percent over the next five years,” according to JLL’s 2016 Sustainability Trends report.
Jenowein paints a picture of the environment in the UK today: a recognition by building managers of higher electricity rates during day peak times and a willingness to do something about it, and the technology solutions of the batteries. He says that lots of components need to come together for energy storage to become more prevalent, such as regulatory elements, subsidies and incentives, and software to integrate the technologies.
“The challenge is to make it all work together,” says Jenowein. His prediction: energy storage for use in commercial office buildings will be more commonplace, but probably not before 2025 or 2030.
According to a study (see attachment) entitled, World Green Building Trends 2016, Developing Markets Accelerate Global Green Growth, the percentage of companies expected to have more than 60 per cent of their building projects certified green is anticipated to more than double by 2018, from 18 per cent currently, to 37 per cent.
The anticipated growth will largely be driven by countries that still have developing green markets, with firms from Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, China and India reporting dramatic growth in the percentage of their projects that they expect to certify as green.
The study, from Dodge Data & Analytics and United Technologies Corporation, on which the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) was a research partner, features the results of more than 1,000 building professionals from 69 countries – including Green Building Councils and their corporate members, from architects and contractors, to owners and engineers.
The study identified a green project that is either certified or built to qualify for certification under a recognised green standard, such as LEED, BREEAM, the DGNB System, Green Star and many other tools.
Other key findings from the report include:
- Global green building continues to double every three years.
- Brazil expects six-fold growth in the percentage of companies that expect to certify the majority of their projects green (from 6 per cent to 36 per cent); five-fold growth is expected in China (from 5 per cent to 28 per cent); and four-fold growth is expected in Saudi Arabia (from 8 per cent to 32 percent).
- Building owners report seeing a median increase of 7 per cent in the value of their green buildings compared to traditional buildings (an increase that is consistent between new green buildings and those that are renovated green).
- The most widely reported benefit globally is lower operating costs. But around 30 per cent of respondents also consider documentation and certification providing quality assurance, education of occupants about sustainability, and higher value at the point of sale as additional benefits which are important in their markets.
- The top sector for green building growth globally is commercial construction, with nearly half (46 per cent) of all respondents expecting to do a green commercial project in the next three years.
- Reducing energy consumption continues to be the top environmental reason for building green (selected as one of the top two reasons by 66 per cent of all respondents), protecting natural resources ranked second globally (37 per cent), and reducing water consumption ranked third (at 31 per cent).
Terri Wills, CEO of WorldGBC, and who is interviewed as a thought leader in the study, said: “This study offers further evidence on the strong business case for green building – the growth of which is now truly a global phenomenon. Green building is playing a critical role in the development of many emerging economies, particularly as their populations grow and create a pressing need for a built environment that is both sustainable and ensures a high quality of life.
“Green Building Councils and their members around the globe will play a pivotal role in delivering this projected growth, and their leadership and expertise will be vital in realising the multiple social, economic and environmental benefits that green buildings offer.”
A look into the process of mergers & acquisitions
Waste Connections’ recent acquisition of Progressive Waste Solutions is likely to be the largest industry deal of 2016, according to David Biderman, CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA).
Besides being a huge move for Waste Connections, “In these types of large transactions, there often are opportunities for other companies to acquire divested assets … that don’t quite fit into the acquiring companies’ plans,” he said.
This is how mergers and acquisitions typically play out in the trash business. Companies snatch up assets when the conditions are right. They keep expanding and consolidating, which is a decades-long trend that began when Waste Management and BFI reared growing heads, went public, and used the resulting capital to accelerate ongoing consolidation.
The movement is gaining forceful momentum, especially this year. Already,Waste Management, Santek Waste Services, Advanced Disposal, Waste Connections, and Covanta, among others, have bought up assets. Michael Hoffman of Stifel, financial consultants at the table through Waste Connections’ big deal, projects the roll will continue as companies with a pocket full of money look to create critical mass and increase density for greater operating leverage.
Buyers leverage strategies from tapping into markets where a municipality controls the landfill rather than competitors, to penetrating regions where they can swim upstream as a bigger fish and keep growing.
Tapping into “disposal neutral” markets
When assessing a purchase, Austin-based Inland Waste Solutions looks for “disposal-neutral” markets, owned by the local government.
“If the municipality controls the landfill, I don’t have to worry about competitors raising my tipping fees. Or we make sure we will have a lot of options. Like in Memphis I have three disposal options; Waste Connections, Waste Management, and Republic own the landfills, so I can negotiate tipping fees,” said Inland’s CEO, Bart Begley.
Inland looks for synergistic value, whether through operations synergies or administrative synergies.
“For example, we will purchase a company with both commercial and residential hauling that overlap areas we service so we can save money by merging new routes into existing ones to reduce the number of trucks needed to serve all customers,” said Begley.
In Northwest Arkansas, Inland increased its route density and saved administrative costs because they had dispatching, customer service, and accounting operations in place to manage all services for both the new and old entities combined. That was part of the Deffenbaugh acquisition. It was in an area where Inland was looking to grow — an area where the Department of Justice forced Waste Management to sell off because the solid waste giant got too saturated in that region’s small container business.
“Northwest Arkansas is a tremendous market; they don’t have a lot of players. So a key component of our strategy was to build these routes, which accelerated our growth plan by six or seven years,” said Begley.
Inland’s revenue was $40 million as of the end of 2015. “When you look at what we bought last year, we are heading toward $50 million,” said Begley of the company that’s penetrated seven states.
50 years of constant consolidation
“I describe it as having gone through six or seven major periods of public company expansion and then consolidation in and among those companies,” said Hoffman, explaining how the waste industry lends itself to consolidation because its operations are capital intensive and it’s a way to maximize investments.
“Now there are five [publicly traded companies], which will be four major ones with the Waste Collections and Progressive transaction: Republic, Waste Management, Waste Connections and Casella,” he said, though that figure will change soon if Advanced Disposal goes public, he added.
Hoffman said what is happening today is a meaningful narrowing of valuation differences between buyers and sellers; they are closer together on what they recognize as the value of a deal to each of them. Consequently, he said, “We see a healthy consolidation market in 2016.”
Aiming to be fully integrated
“You collect it; you transfer it; and you drive it to landfill and dump it. So you control waste from the curb to final disposal, capturing all of the profit margin. And that collection is [ideally] diverse with commercial and residential trash and recycling,” said Hoffman.
That’s how Waste Management has been doing collections for decades — inking deals that fit into the company’s existing empire.
“The assets we would look at as a priority would be … the ability to integrate effectively and to optimize and leverage [the deal] around our corporate capabilities to create additional value,” said Toni Beck, Waste Management’s vice president of communications and community relations.
Tightening regulatory requirements is also among drivers of buying and selling decisions, said Biderman. They require large investments in upgraded equipment and landfill design. As an example, he cited what he projects may be around the bend in New York City when haulers are required to upgrade trucks by 2020 to comply with more rigid emission rules.
“Carters will have to buy new trucks or retrofit existing ones. Either way you have to spend a fair amount and some may decide to sell rather than spend to upgrade their fleet. New York has the most collections in the country and many small carters will be impacted; it’s definitely an area to keep an eye on where more transactions could take place,” he said.
Corpus Christi, TX–based K2 Waste Solutions just came on line in 2015. The small independent collector recently acquired a residential hauling company in that city, marking K2’s entry into the residential market. “It gave us a thousand homes in a business that had been outside of our operational footprint. It was a good decision for us,” said K2 President Bill Killian.
“One truck and some containers, and you’re in business.” – Michael Hoffman
The company shoots for a revenue mix of a third in commercial, a third in residential, and a third in industrial.
“Residential and commercial generate a dependable monthly income, though construction contracts are a higher per ticket average and good money makers,” said Killian.
“Unless the major focus is landfilling, it’s hard to break a company,” said Hoffman. We have no choice but to deal with our trash. So usually if a company goes up for sale it’s because the owners want out, he said.
In Hoffman’s view, “If you want to be in the garbage business, if you can borrow money or already have it, you are in. One truck and some containers, and you’re in business.”
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