The energy shock will accelerate investment in smart energy solutions

The energy shock will accelerate investment in smart energy solutions

07-10-2022 | Insight

Today’s energy markets are polluting, inefficient, volatile and vulnerable. The need for an energy transition has never been clearer and will be driven by electrification of end-use applications. Investments will be costly, but resistance has been lowered by the ongoing realities of high volatility, supply disruption and the need for domestic manufacturing that is both clean and energy efficient.

  • Sanaa  Hakim
    Senior Equity Analyst

Speed read

  • Current power systems victim of and contributor to geopolitical instability
  • Electrification is key for a clean and secure energy future
  • We’re on the cusp of a new investment cycle for a complex transition

Energy markets – in transition but far from sustainable

Energy is critical for economic growth, but it is dominated by fossil fuels. Oil, coal and gas account for more than 80% of the primary energy needed to power the world’s economies. The Paris Agreement and the transition to a net-zero economy mean the shift to renewables and other low-carbon sources will accelerate in the next decade and ultimately supplant fossil fuels’ preeminence. But though momentum has increased, we cannot get there fast enough.

With 80% of total CO2 emissions, we always knew the energy sector was dirty. But the recent convergence of crises has underscored additional dangers. It is extremely inefficient; 60% of the fossil fuels extracted are wasted, with half lost in the production of electricity, and another half lost when fuels are inefficiently burned during combustion. It is highly vulnerable due to dangerous dependencies on countries rich in fossil fuels but poor at diplomacy and governance. And it is volatile; the conflict in Ukraine took energy markets off-guard, amplifying the rise in energy prices.

Stay informed on Sustainable Investing with monthly mail updates
Stay informed on Sustainable Investing with monthly mail updates

Clean energy requires electrification of consumption

Decarbonizing can only happen when burning hydrocarbons in engines and furnaces is replaced with racing electrons in a circuit. But that future reality depends not only on producing clean energy via renewables but also on clean consumption downstream via electric end-use applications (See Figure 1).

In order to limit extreme global warming, nearly 75% of global electricity generation must come from low-emission sources by 2030. Currently, wind and solar account for only 6% of the global mix. To reach net zero, electricity consumption needs to outgrow energy consumption by a factor of two to three in the coming decades. This will be driven not only by transport markets (via lithium-ion batteries, vehicle powertrains, green hydrogen and passenger railways), but also buildings (via electric heat pumps, HVAC and insulation), and industrial markets (via the electrification of production processes).

The world’s largest economies have already set ambitious targets to increase the share of renewables in the national energy mix, including the US where the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) devotes nearly USD 400 billion to building up domestic renewable energy production and storage as well as clean energy use by consumers.

In order to limit extreme global warming, nearly 75% of global electricity generation must come from low-emission sources by 2030

Figure 1 | Synchronized solutions – renewable energy supplies rise to support electric consumption

Renewable energy supplies will increase to support the electrification of end use applications.
Source: BP outlook

Driving not derailing the energy transition

Meanwhile, energy security has replaced climate security as an immediate concern, especially for Europe. Russia has cut EU gas supplies as tensions over the war in Ukraine have escalated, leaving the EU desperate for energy to keep its lights on, its citizens warm and its economies churning.

In the short term, countries are reverting to fossil fuels to fill the gap, but as geopolitical tensions tighten, the crisis emphasizes the high-stakes jeopardy of an economy dependent on fossil fuels. Recognizing this, the EU has acted swiftly to further accelerate its net-zero path. Its “REPowerEU” plan further cuts energy emissions, boosts electrification of buildings and industries, and expands investment in renewable supplies and infrastructure connections across bloc economies.

But the trade-offs between energy security and climate security are complicated by current technological capacity but also political will and public sentiment, especially if consumers are forced to ration.

High energy costs create incentives

Per the International Energy Agency, in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, annual investment needs to double to USD 5 trillion a year. Energy costs comprise a significant share of total expenses in a variety of business models, which means a company’s energy savings often have an outsized effect on the bottom line.

The benefits of transitioning will accrue in the long term, but over the short term many firms will see significant costs, especially in hard-to-electrify industries. However, renewable production costs are falling relative to traditional energy forms (see Figure 2). And with traditional energy costs exploding, consumers and energy-intensive industries will accelerate their own energy transitions as payback periods for investments in renewable energy procurement and energy-efficient solutions shorten.

Figure 2 | Renewables – cost competitive in industry and residential settings

The levelized cost of energy from renewable sources (solar installations, geothermal and wind) are competitive and in industrial settings much lower than conventional forms of energy such as gas, coal and nuclear.
Source: Lazard

Targeted investment in electrification

Despite present challenges, electrification is at the beginning of a huge investment cycle which will spill across sectors. We believe we are reaching a turning point where governments will stop incentivising combustible fuels and encourage the adoption of technologies that facilitate economies running fully on electricity. As the fuel mix diversifies and customers are granted more flexibility, competition between energy sources will increase. This will further accelerate economy-wide shifts in renewables and electrification.

The Smart Energy team invests in companies enabling and accelerating the transition along the entire electrification value chain – from upstream companies supporting the generation of renewable wind and solar power to mid- and downstream companies creating more efficient ways to use, store and distribute it. Alongside investments in maturing technologies, the team is continuously looking for companies that can simplify and scale production of breakthrough solutions that will further accelerate the electrification of the economy.

Important information

The contents of this document have not been reviewed by the Securities and Futures Commission ("SFC") in Hong Kong. If you are in any doubt about any of the contents of this document, you should obtain independent professional advice. This document has been distributed by Robeco Hong Kong Limited (‘Robeco’). Robeco is regulated by the SFC in Hong Kong.
This document has been prepared on a confidential basis solely for the recipient and is for information purposes only. Any reproduction or distribution of this documentation, in whole or in part, or the disclosure of its contents, without the prior written consent of Robeco, is prohibited. By accepting this documentation, the recipient agrees to the foregoing
This document is intended to provide the reader with information on Robeco’s specific capabilities, but does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell certain securities or investment products. Investment decisions should only be based on the relevant prospectus and on thorough financial, fiscal and legal advice. Please refer to the relevant offering documents for details including the risk factors before making any investment decisions.
The contents of this document are based upon sources of information believed to be reliable. This document is not intended for distribution to or use by any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to local law or regulation.
Investment Involves risks. Historical returns are provided for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily reflect Robeco’s expectations for the future. The value of your investments may fluctuate. Past performance is no indication of current or future performance.



1. General
Please read this information carefully.

This website is prepared and issued by Robeco Hong Kong Limited ("Robeco"), which is a corporation licensed by the Securities and Futures Commission in Hong Kong to engage in Type 1 (dealing in securities); Type 4 (advising in securities) and Type 9 (asset management) regulated activities. The Company does not hold client assets and is subject to the licensing condition that it shall seek the SFC’s prior approval before extending services at retail level. This website has not been reviewed by the Securities and Futures Commission or any regulatory authority in Hong Kong.

2. Important risk disclosures
2. Important risk disclosures Robeco Capital Growth Funds (“the Funds”) are distinguished by their respective specific investment policies or any other specific features. Please read carefully for the risks of the Funds:

  • Some Funds are subject to investment, market, equities, liquidity, counterparty, securities lending and foreign currency risk and risk associated with investments in small and/or mid-capped companies.
  • Some Funds are subject to the risks of investing in emerging markets which include political, economic, legal, regulatory, market, settlement, execution, counterparty and currency risks.
  • Some Funds may invest in China A shares directly through the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (“QFII”) scheme and / or RMB Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (“RQFII”) scheme and / or Stock Connect programmes which may entail additional clearing and settlement, regulatory, operational, counterparty and liquidity risk.
  • For distributing share classes, some Funds may pay out dividend distributions out of capital. Where distributions are paid out of capital, this amounts to a return or withdrawal of part of your original investment or capital gains attributable to that and may result in an immediate decrease in the net asset value of shares.
  • Some Funds’ investments maybe concentrated in one region / one country / one sector / around one theme and therefore the value of the Fund may be more volatile and may be subject to concentration risk.
  • The risk exists that the quantitative techniques used by some Funds may not work and the Funds’ value may be adversely affected.
  • In addition to investment, market, liquidity, counterparty, securities lending, (reverse) repurchase agreements and foreign currency risk, some Funds are subject to risk associated with fixed income investments like credit risk, interest rate risk, convertible bonds risk, ABS risk and the risk of investments in non-investment grade or unrated securities and the risk of investments made in non-investment grade sovereign securities.
  • Some Funds can use derivatives extensively. Robeco Global Consumer Trends Equities can use derivatives for hedging and efficient portfolio management. Derivatives exposure may involve higher counterparty, liquidity and valuation risks. In adverse situations, the Funds may suffer significant losses (even a total loss of the Funds’ assets) from its derivative usage.
  • Robeco European High Yield Bonds is subject to Eurozone risk.
  • Investors may suffer substantial losses of their investments in the Funds. Investor should not invest in the Funds solely based on the information provided in this document and should read the offering documents (including potential risks involved) for details.

3. Local legal and sales restrictions
The Website is to be accessed by “professional investors” only (as defined in the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Cap.571) and/or the Securities and Futures (Professional Investors) Rules (Cap.571D) under the laws of Hong Kong). The Website is not directed at any person in any jurisdiction where (by reason of that person’s nationality, residence or otherwise) the publication or availability of the Website is prohibited. Persons in respect of whom such prohibitions apply or persons other than those specified above must not access this Website. Persons accessing the Website need to be aware that they are responsible themselves for the compliance with all local rules and regulations. By accessing this Website and any of its pages, you acknowledge your agreement with understanding of the following terms of use and legal information. If you do not agree to the terms and conditions below, do not access this Website or any pages thereof.

The information contained in the Website is being provided for information purposes.

Neither information nor any opinion expressed on the Website constitutes a solicitation, an offer or a recommendation to buy, sell or dispose of any investment, to engage in any other transaction or to provide any investment advice or service. The information contained in the Website does not constitute investment advice or a recommendation and was prepared without regard to the specific objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person who may receive it. An investment in a Robeco product should only be made after reading the related legal documents such as management regulations, prospectuses, most recent annual and semi-annual reports, which can be all be obtained free of charge at www.robeco.com/hk/en and at the Robeco Hong Kong office.

4. Use of the Website
The information is based on certain assumptions, information and conditions applicable at a certain time and may be subject to change at any time without notice. Robeco aims to provide accurate, complete and up-to-date information, obtained from sources of information believed to be reliable. Persons accessing the Website are responsible for their choice and use of the information.

5. Investment performance
No assurance can be given that the investment objective of any investment products will be achieved. No representation or promise as to the performance of any investment products or the return on an investment is made. The value of your investments may fluctuate. The value of the assets of Robeco investment products may also fluctuate as a result of the investment policy and/or the developments on the financial markets. Results obtained in the past are no guarantee for the future. Past performance, projection, or forecast included in this Website should not be taken as an indication or guarantee of future performance, and no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made regarding future performance. Fund performance figures are based on the month-end trading prices and are calculated on a total return basis with dividends reinvested. Return figures versus the benchmark show the investment management result before management and/or performance fees; the fund returns are with dividends reinvested and based on net asset values with prices and exchange rates of the valuation moment of the benchmark.
Investments involve risks. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. Potential investors should read the terms and conditions contained in the relevant offering documents and in particular the investment policies and the risk factors before any investment decision is made. Investors should ensure they fully understand the risks associated with the fund and should also consider their own investment objective and risk tolerance level. Investors are reminded that the value and income (if any) from shares of the fund may be volatile and could change substantially within a short period of time, and investors may not get back the amount they have invested in the fund. If in doubt, please seek independent financial and professional advice.

6. Third party websites
This website includes material from third parties or links to websites maintained by third parties some of which is supplied by companies that are not affiliated to Robeco. Following links to any other off-site pages or websites of third parties shall be at the own risk of the person following such link. Robeco has not reviewed any of the websites linked to or referred to by the Website and does not endorse or accept any responsibility for their content nor the products, services or other items offered through them. Robeco shall have no liability for any losses or damages arising from the use of or reliance on the information contained on websites of third parties, including, without limitation, any loss of profit or any other direct or indirect damage. Third party off-site pages or websites are provided for informational purposes only.

7. Limitation of liability
Robeco as well as (possible) other suppliers of information to the Website accept no responsibility for the contents of the Website or the information or recommendations contained herein, which moreover may be changed without notice.
Robeco assumes no responsibility for ensuring, and makes no warranty, that the functioning of the Website will be uninterrupted or error-free. Robeco assumes no responsibility for the consequences of e-mail messages regarding a Robeco (transaction) service, which either cannot be received or sent, are damaged, received or sent incorrectly, or not received or sent on time.
Neither will Robeco be liable for any loss or damage that may result from access to and use of the Website.

8. Intellectual property
All copyrights, patents, intellectual and other property, and licenses regarding the information on the Website are held and obtained by Robeco. These rights will not be passed to persons accessing this information.

9. Privacy
Robeco guarantees that the data of persons accessing the Website will be treated confidentially in accordance with prevailing data protection regulations. Such data will not be made available to third parties without the approval of the persons accessing the Website, unless Robeco is legally obliged to do so. Please find more details in our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

10. Applicable law
The Website shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong. All disputes arising out of or in connection with the Website shall be submitted to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of Hong Kong. 

Please click the “I agree” button if you have read and understood this page and agree to the Disclaimers above and the collection and use of your personal data by Robeco, for the purposes for which such data is collected and used as set out in the Privacy and Cookie Policy, including for the purpose of direct marketing of Robeco products or services. Otherwise, please click “I Disagree” to leave the website.

I Disagree