D for disruption

Norway boasts the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at over $1 trillion. In what could be a huge signal for the future, the fund announced last month an intention to gradually move away from investments in oil exploration and production companies, “to make the government’s wealth less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil process”. 

While the tilt away from upstream companies could bolster investments in renewable energy, that was clearly not the driver of the decision. “It’s an investment fund,” lawmaker Henrik Asheim was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg News report. “We’re doing this only out of risk considerations, not to contribute to more renewable energy. We can do that in other ways.”

Electric cars are one of the intersection points for the oil and electricity industries. BloombergNEF has published updated estimates of oil consumption likely to be displaced by electric cars and buses: 352,000 barrels per day in 2019 in four regions — China, US, Europe and Japan — compared to 256,000 barrels per day last year. The equivalent global numbers will only go up as electrification of vehicles gathers pace in countries like India.

Several countries are rolling out electric vehicle charging infrastructure
In fact, Norway is ahead of almost everyone else in the vehicle electrification game: Electric vehicles accounted for more than half of Norway’s car sales in March, with Tesla’s Model 3 being a popular choice.

Several countries are rolling out electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and car and bus companies are working on new models of e-vehicles. BYD, the Chinese EV maker backed by Warren Buffett, unveiled what it claimed was the world’s longest electric bus recently. The 27-meter contraption can carry 250 passengers and travel 300 kilometers on a single charge. In January, the company announced the production of its 50,000th pure electric bus. Meanwhile, in the US, Proterra is sealing deals for its zero-emission buses. 

Germany’s Daimler is setting up a 50:50 venture with China’s Geely, its largest shareholder, to transform its small-car division into an all-electric brand based in China, with global sales set to commence in 2022. Volkswagen said its light commercial vehicles division would invest $2 billion to advance a transition to self-driving electric vans and mobility services. In India, Ola Electric Mobility, a company backed by ride hailing company Ola, raised Rs 400 crore last month to progress on its mission of “sustainable mobility” for all. 

Meanwhile, in another example of the intersection of oil and electricity, Royal Dutch Shell said it aims to become the world’s biggest power producer. “We believe we can be the largest electricity power company in the world in the early 2030s,” Maarten Wetselaar, director of Shell’s integrated gas and new energies unit, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We are not interested in the power business because we like what we saw in the last 20 years; we are interested because we think we like what we see in the next 20 years.” Given the company’s commitment to halve its carbon footprint by 2050, most of the new capacity is expected to be renewable.

Australia’s opposition Labor Party said it would set an electric vehicle target for the country, if it is elected in May, and would tighten rules around carbon emissions to cover 250 biggest industrial polluters. These are the kind of announcements that are absent currently from the campaign trail in India, but they may not always be.
The author is editor, global policy for BloombergNEF.
Email: vgombar@bloomberg.net

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