Warehousing is king 👑

Warehouses and fulfillment centers have been the nervous system of the global economy since the Covid-19 pandemic stroke in early 2020. As consumption moved massively online, brands and retailers understood that the new battleground for winning customers satisfaction and retention was the delivery experience. We cannot blame only Covid-19 for this. Since its inception, Amazon has been raising the bar in term of customer expectations, with at least next-day delivery for Prime-labelled products being today the norm in most urban agglomerates. Storing and fulfillment represents a key link of the delivery value chain and good a potential candidate for becoming its bottleneck. Thus, we decided to investigate whether venture capitalists should seize the momentum and fuel the next generation of warehousing and fulfillment technologies and business models.

Automate, automate, automate! 🦾

Facts

Automation of warehousing and fulfillment operations has just started. It is estimated that by 2025, more than 4 million commercial robots will be installed in over 50,000 warehouses, up from just under 4,000 robotic warehouses in 2018.

Labor costs could account up to 35% of warehousing and fulfillment costs in Europe, with picking being by far the costliest operation. Renting the facility does not exceed, usually, 30% of the total costs.

The recent spike in quick-commerce startup allowed for a new type of warehouse to emerge: the city hub – a small warehouse located in urban areas that allows faster delivery times. These city hubs are usually costlier to maintain, thanks to the higher rent and wages that need to be paid in city centers.

Aster’s view

The coming years will know a great wave of warehouse automation. As logistics and fulfillment market expand thanks to e-commerce growth, the need for a more efficient and productive delivery infrastructure will intensify. We believe that automation needs will be even stronger in urban warehouses, where operating costs are higher – and thus saving potentials are greater.

Let’s re-engage warehouse workers 👷‍

Facts

Following the recent spike in demand of warehouse associates, attracting new workers and retaining existing ones is becoming more and more difficult, especially in the North American and European markets, where many organizations’ annual turnover rate exceeds 100%. It is no secret that the job is highly repetitive and physically demanding.

Amazon is trying to make the job less tedious through gamification: workers can compete in various games by completing warehouse tasks and can win digital rewards, such as virtual pets 🐶 and real-world items.

It is estimated that in less than 4 years, 75% of the workforce will be represented by Millennials, the first generation that grew up with digital technology at their fingertips. However, the penetration of digital tools among warehouse workers is low, and processes are either paper-based or reliant on legacy software with awful UX.

Aster’s view

In the fight for talent, employers will understand the need to make the warehouse routine more engaging and the work environment safer.

Frontline workers will benefit from a wave of digitalization thanks to modern productivity software and it is likely that if the Amazon gaming experiment succeeds, other employers will follow the delivery giant example.

To make the warehouse associates work less dangerous and tiring, exoskeletons and other wearables, if they will gain acceptability among the workforce, by essentially being more comfortable to wear, could represent a solution.

Warehousing-as-a-Service is booming 💻

Facts

Companies are more and more selling services, rather than just products. Consumers today can subscribe to pretty much everything you can think of: music, video streaming, cars or even just… pickles! 🥒 This paradigm shift has approached the logistics world as well, with a growing number of companies offering flexible warehousing space in different locations to brands and retailers in return of a monthly subscription fee that depends on the capacity used and on the number of orders fulfilled.

Aster’s view

Source: Aster

Warehousing and fulfillment-as-a-Service is a winning formula, which brings all the benefits of decentralized warehousing, without its major drawbacks (higher operating and inventory cost). In fact, thanks to a network of geographically distributed warehouses, shippers can:

  • lower shipping costs and delivery time by storing their products closer to their customers;
  • expand storage capacity without the need to build or lease new infrastructure, but simply by upgrading their subscription;
  • mitigate the risk of labor shortage, by having inventory distributed in different locations.

At Aster, we strongly believe in the widespread adoption of this model in Europe in the coming years (as it already happened in the US).

Want to know more about which companies are shaping the warehouse of the future?    ⤵

Source: Aster

For founders

Hey you! If the vision shared in this article resonates with you or you are out there building the future of warehouses 🦄, ping me on LinkedIn 📩.

From 2014 to 2019, VC investment in European industrial tech startups increased from €100m to €1.1b. However, despite this impressive growth, industrial tech accounted for only 3% of all European VC funding in 2019. Interestingly, there is a sharp contrast between VC funding in industrial tech, and the actual contribution of the industrial sector to the economy. Indeed, in 2020, the manufacturing sector accounted for about 22% of the EU’s GDP. In addition, the European manufacturing sector, which is amongst the least digitized, has been suffering from a decline in productivity growth over the past 15 years and is facing increased competition from foreign players. As such, we firmly believe that the European manufacturing sector will need startup-driven innovation to boost its productivity and thereby increase its competitiveness.

This begs the following question: how can manufacturing companies become more productive?

There are many ways to answer this question, but today we will focus on how the industrial tech stack can lead to productivity improvements in manufacturing. First, we need to understand what the industrial tech stack actually is. The industrial tech stack is a complex structure composed of 4 layers, each containing software and hardware components:

Source: Aster

Unfortunately, in most factories, the tech stack is full of inefficiencies:

  • Old unconnected machines: it is not uncommon to find aging, sensorless equipment on the factory floor, as replacement cycles for heavy assets often last decades.
  • Unconnected stack layers: PLCs are not necessarily connected to SCADA systems, the SCADA system of different processes are not necessarily connected to each other, and the MES is not always fully connected to all processes in the factory.
  • Lack of data harmonization and interoperability: factory data can come from many different sources (sensors, SCADA, MES, Excel sheets, PLCs, …) and in many different forms (structured, semi-structured or unstructured). In addition, machines and software used in factories can be quite old, often come from different suppliers, and often have different communication protocols.
  • Lack of IT/OT collaboration: the firm (IT) and factory (OT) levels are often not fully integrated, resulting in a poor understanding of factory processes at the firm level. The factory is basically seen as a black box by the firm level, and this is called the “IT/OT convergence” problem.

Clearly, we can see that the main problem with traditional tech stacks is that industrial data is hard to collect and difficult to integrate. Without access to industrial data, implementing use cases that lead to productivity improvements – such as process optimization, predictive maintenance or automated quality control – is quite challenging.

We believe that startups can help manufacturing companies improve their industrial tech stack in 3 different ways:

  • Data collection: provide hardware/software to connect old legacy machines to IT/OT networks and provide middleware or connectivity to facilitate data collection from sensors and machines.
  • Data harmonization: provide software to integrate, harmonize and generate insights from industrial data across the factory floor or even across different factories.
  • Decentralization: bridge the gap between the firm- and machine-level through edge-computing, allowing machines to interact with each other and take more autonomous decisions. The idea is to connect machines to each other, to operators and to the firm-level in order to have flexible production lines that take into account not only factory (OT) data to take decisions, but also firm (IT) data. For example, this structure could enable machines to change their parameters automatically to produce different products based on demand forecasts made at the firm-level.

Our view is that the future industrial tech stack will be decentralized, and we look forward to seeing more companies contributing to this trend. However, in the short- to medium-term, we believe that there is value in helping manufacturing companies through data harmonization. As such, we believe that startups that will stand out in the space will be those that:

  • Harmonize and contextualize structured/semi-structured/unstructured data from a large number of sources (MES, SCADA, PLC, sensors, Excel sheets, …) and are able to easily integrate into the existing stack of customers.
  • Provide a clear and measurable ROI to customers.
  • Enable the interconnection of devices in manufacturing operations with a low-code/no-code approach.
  • Focus on making production lines flexible, more autonomous and directly connected to the IT level.
  • Provide edge computing with a low latency, low costs, AI and ML capabilities, real-time analytics and focus on working towards IT/OT convergence.

Source: Aster

In recent months, many carbon footprint management solutions have emerged and/or raised significant funding. This trend caught our attention: we have always been convinced that it is important to reduce your carbon footprint as an individual (starting with switching to 👋 ekWateur for instance), but is this topic about to reach maturity in B2B sectors?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) increasing concentration in the earth’s atmosphere is the first human-caused source of global warming. CO2 emissions tracking consists of all initiatives to report, monitor, measure but also to reduce, offset and remove the CO2 from the air.

In recent years, three sectors have stood out as the fastest-growing sources of CO2 emissions: industrial processes have increased by 174%, transportation by 71% and manufacturing and construction by 55%.

In light of this, and driven by EU regulations (the Emissions Trading Scheme, the European Green Deal, etc.) and consumer awareness, the carbon footprint management market is expected to reach a size of $12.2bn by 2025. Long held back by the high cost of carbon footprint reduction and insufficient public incentives, many solutions are emerging to help industrial players monitor their emissions. The value propositions are primarily focused on improving brand image, engaging employees, complying with regulations and reducing emission-related costs.

The field has been quite active with VC deals all along the emissions tracking value chain.

Source: Aster

Many players are emerging, but differentiation remains fairly low. Therefore, we believe that the startups that will stand out will be those that:

  • Fully automate data collection and use AI algorithms to recommend the best emission reduction plans,
  • Create strong product stickiness by delivering an above-average UX,
  • Focus on a specific, highly regulated industry to ensure broad adoption and strong ROI,
  • Develop comprehensive tools with bundled offers from data collection and monitoring to reducing/offsetting options,
  • Leverage a strong network of assessment or offsetting partners to increase value and create strong network effects.

Source: Aster

Public transportation was already facing many challenges before the pandemic broke out, such as budget constraints (high operating and maintenance costs with low investments), declining ridership (resulting from the emergence of new ride-hailing and micromobility offers) and a mismatch between the objectives and expectations of the authorities, public transport operators (PTO) and commuters.

The pandemic has accentuated the pressure on the sector, bringing passenger flows to a historically low level. Although commuters are gradually returning to using public transportation (see exhibit 1), the number of commuters remains lower than in other years, as does income. Despite the $25 billion provided to US transit agencies to respond to Covid-19, they are expected to face a shortfall of $23.8 billion by the end of 2021.

Impact of COVID-19 on public transit usage around the world (January 15th,2020)

Source: Moovit

PTOs play a key role in containing the spread of Covid-19 by limiting coach capacity, monitoring social distancing in stations and ensuring that routes are optimized (i.e., shortest possible). In addition, in order to recover usage levels, PTOs are required to guarantee safe travel and restore passenger trust. Two categories of tools can help them do this: 1) flow regulation tools and 2) passenger monitoring tools. In fact, airports had already adopted some of these tools before the pandemic.

By taking a closer look at the flow regulation & passenger monitoring landscape, we have identified 6 areas where startups are flourishing:

  • Demand Forecasting: startups that provide tools for route optimization, scheduling systems, also based on passenger demand and patterns. These tools enable faster changes to routes and schedules.
  • Station Passenger Management: startups that develop tools for passenger regulation in stations, mainly to signal situations where passengers do not respect social distancing measures
  • In Coach Passenger Management: startups that create solutions to manage and limit the number of passengers in coaches, to enable PTOs to enforce coach capacity thresholds
  • Symptom & Mask Detection: startups that can help PTOs detect if passengers have symptoms and/or are not wearing masks. Solutions in this area are mainly camera-based systems, to automatically signal passengers who are ill or not wearing masks, to protect other commuters
  • Horizontal AI & ML tool: technology providers that power the above tools

Even if we hope that Covid-19 will just be a memory, habits still need to be changed as long as the pandemic is around. For this, PTOs are obliged to invest into solutions to make public transportation safe enough for commuters to use their services.

If there is one silver lining from the pandemic, it is that it helped to reveal the vulnerabilities in global supply chains on a scale never before experienced. As China produces 20% of global goods, the impact on global trade has been devastating and was compounded by the European lockdown: 14.8% decline in transaction volume in Q2 compared to Q1 2020. Players have been forced to reinvent their supply chains, which has boosted the adoption of supply chain risk management and procurement solutions.

Supply chains were already undergoing huge transformations before the pandemic. In the context of globalization, large companies had redesigned their processes to increase flexibility and reduce costs. But the pandemic revealed the weaknesses of such a system:

  • Fragmentation of supply chains, leading to more complex patterns, communication issues and greater exposure to risk
  • High vulnerability to supply and demand shocks due to the lean manufacturing strategies that involve minimizing the amount of inventory
  • New customer expectations demanding higher environmental, social and transparency standards

Despite this huge disruption, Covid-19 has also accelerated some trends and created new business opportunities.  According to Gartner, at least 50% of the world’s leading companies will be using AI, advanced analytics and IoT in their supply chain operations by 2023.

At Aster, we have taken a closer look at the field of supplier risk management in large-scale industry and manufacturing and identified 3 areas where startups are flourishing:

  • Procurement diversification and risk prediction. As supply chains are increasingly global and complex, companies are using advanced analytics and risk prediction platforms to mitigate the risk of supplier failure and ensure business continuity in the event of a shock. B2B marketplaces are also expanding to diversify sourcing.
  • Supply chain management optimization. AI, advanced analytics, IoT and blockchain technologies are massively disrupting supply chain operations, from planning and inventory to customer service or back-office tasks. Automation and digitization are gradually enabling companies to improve supply chain efficiency, increase service quality, decrease operational costs, and need for safety stocks.
  • Transparency and eco-responsibility management. With stricter environmental, social and sanitary regulations and higher customer expectations, a CSR framework needs to be integrated into supply chains. This is boosting the demand for tools that enable stakeholder authentication, regulation compliance, environmental impact measurement and supply chain end-to end transparency.

The summer holiday season is coming to an end and, for many of us, it’s time to go back to work. But this year, will we return to the office (if at all) as if nothing happened?

During the lockdown period, the way in which companies conveyed their culture and ensured knowledge transfer was fully transformed digitally. However, the paradigm shift towards digitization was already underway prior to the pandemic with:

  • The accelerating pace of skill obsolescence, creating a generation gap in organizations and increasing employee integration and training costs.
  • Higher employee expectations, forcing employers to build competitive employee benefits packages to attract, engage and retain.
  • Increasing UX standards, set by the tools we all use in our personal lives, leading to faster employee disengagement if the corporate tools were not relevant enough.

Covid-19 has only accelerated some trends and created new business opportunities. Since remote working became a norm during lockdown, the number of employees working remotely has increased. According to Gartner, the number of employees working remotely at least part of the timed jumped from 30% to 48% after the pandemic. Other trends are also reshaping HR management: the new focus on employee safety and well-being, the increase in contingent work, the expanded data collection on employee productivity, etc.

Looking at this topic more closely, we identified 3 fields where startups are flourishing:

  • Digital employee onboarding, cross-boarding and offboarding. Even if we hope to not have to onboard employees entirely remotely in the near future, digital onboarding tools are a great solution to save time on employee onboarding paperwork, ensure employee integration through personalized onboarding journeys and accelerate employees’ learning curves.
  • Digital employee training. With horizontal learning systems and content platforms, soft skill peer-to-peer coaching for white-collar workers or AR/VR training for blue-collar workers, companies can now efficiently measure the evolution of their workforce’s skills.
  • Real-time employee engagement monitoring. With continuous sentiment analysis and peer-to-peer recognition tools, companies can reduce employee turnover, chronic stress, burnouts and increase productivity.
At Aster, we are particularly interested in tools that allow the transfer of hard skills and the monitoring of blue-collar worker engagement.

* LMS: Learning Management Systems

  • Safe-mode period — Learning to co-exist with Covid-19 (after quarantine)
  • Period of recovery — Development and distribution of a vaccine at large scale (from 2021)

Phase 1: Fighting through the sanitary crisis

Covid-19 has hit all forms of shared urban transportation hard. Now that many western economies are beginning to reopen and ease lockdown restrictions, let’s take a brief moment to review how the crisis unfolded for different subsegments of urban mobility:

Public transit demand declines across London, New York City, Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area. Source: Transit app

Source: Second Measure

Phase 2: Safe-mode period — Learning to co-exist with Covid-19

2.1 Public transit must digitize and continue partnering with private mobility players

Rider Alerts is a tool that enables transit agencies to better communicate service interruptions to riders. Source: Swiftly
Scooter app downloads from Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Source: App Annie

Phase 3: Period of recovery — Development and distribution of a vaccine at large-scale

3.1 Public policy could play a key role in shaping the new normal for urban mobility

Conclusion

While uncertainty remains with respect to length and long-term impact of the crisis, there is bound to be some enduring change to the urban mobility landscape precipitated by Covid-19:

For now, one of the big unknowns is how consumer demand will recover for urban mobility in the months and years to come. The unanswered question is how many trips will be replaced by virtual work and entertainment once this is all done?

To help our portfolio companies navigate through the current “fog of uncertainty”, we have decided to write a series of articles in which we’ll delve into the impact of the Covid-19 sanitary crisis on our areas of expertise: energy, mobility and industry 4.0.

Introduction

Recently, we delved into the impact of Covid-19 on manufacturing. We saw that key industrial players have been hit hard by the crisis and that they are digitizing at a forced march. But what about their involvement in green energy?

Until now, the renewables market was projected to grow rapidly; changing the way we fuel our cars, heat our homes and power our industries for decades to come. Yet today, the industry is facing headwinds as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the global economic downturn and the collapse in oil prices. The question is, will Covid-19 slow the global shift to renewable energy?

Quarantine period — Renewable energy has been the most resilient energy to Covid-19 lockdown measures so far

The International Energy Agency says energy demand is likely to fall by 6% in 2020 — seven times the scale of the drop suffered in the 2008 financial crisis. In other words, 2020 will be equivalent to losing India’s energy demand in absolute terms.

Despite it being the biggest shock since the Second World War, renewable energy has, so far, been the most resilient energy to lockdown restrictions, making up more of the energy mix. This is mainly due to the solar and wind projects that were completed in 2019 and to the priority dispatch of renewables over other energies, due to their low operating costs and favorable regulatory incentives.

But it goes without saying that the renewable energy industry was affected by supply chain disruptions and a slowdown in installation activity during quarantine.

  • Solar energy: as Chinese factories account for 70% of the world’s solar panel supply, global production of solar photovoltaic (PV) was reduced in February due to factory closures in China’s key manufacturing provinces. Despite some shipment delays, production is now ramping up again.
  • Wind energy: the wind supply chain however is very interconnected. As wind turbines require multiple parts across the world, Europe, which is a major manufacturing hub for wind turbines, suffered massively from China’s reduced production.
  • Liquid biofuels: the liquid biofuels industry directly suffered from the decline in road transport fuel. US ethanol production was down nearly 50% by early April, leading to growing biofuel stocks, decreasing biofuel prices, thus compromising profitability. Many ethanol plants in fact shifted towards manufacturing hand sanitizer.

For small renewable energy suppliers, the situation was particularly difficult. According to Julien Tchernia, CEO of ekWateur, France’s leading supplier of renewable energy, the contraction in demand forced them to sell the excess of energy that had been contractually purchased (electricity can’t be stocked) at extremely low prices, making them lose a lot of money.

A decline in renewable energy additions due to delayed constructions and supply chain disruptions

Although Chinese factories are starting up, we expect global supply chain disruptions and delayed constructions to cause a significant dip in renewable energy additions. The procurement, construction and commissioning of new power plants will be slowed by the unavailability of work crews and the restrictions being placed on international travel.

  • Solar energy: BloombergNEF has revised its global forecasts for 2020, saying that demand for photovoltaic solar panels will be in the range of 108 to 143 gigawatts, down from the range of 121 to 152 gigawatts that was forecasted less than a month ago.
  • Wind energy: with the blustery start of the year and widespread wind turbine installations last year, we expect an overall increase in wind energy consumption. In China, all wind projects need to be commissioned by the end of the year to qualify for Feed-In Tariff subsidies. The United States is also in a similar situation. The question is: to what extent will there be delays?
  • Liquid biofuels: we expect a decrease in liquid biofuels throughout 2020 despite a potential rebound of transport in S2 2020. Many biofuels blending mandates have been delayed especially with the decrease in low oil prices and the introduction of Brazil’s RenovaBio policy may also be disrupted.
  • Hydropower: hydropower energy accounts for almost 60% of renewable energy yet remains the largest uncertainty in 2020 as it is dependent on rainfall and temperature patterns.

Beyond supply chain disruptions that will ripple through construction, construction projects will also be slowed by the depreciation of many currencies against the US dollar. Australia, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa are currently experiencing a rapid depreciation, resulting in higher capital costs for projects under construction. According to Rystad Energy, increases could be as high as 36% for these countries, resulting in the potential shutdown of most projects not yet been commissioned.

While analysts from BloombergNEFPV InfoLink, and IHS Markit say that overall a significant contraction of demand is likely this year, some companies are reporting record sales with consumers reportedly panic-buying solar and storage equipment to sure themselves up in uncertain times. This is particularly true for Smart Energy, which has said it has witnessed a 41% increase in sales and a 400% increase in battery inquiries over Q1 2020. According to Elliot Hayes, CEO of Smart Energy“our growth is a by-product of economic uncertainty that is driving both residential consumers and businesses to look for ways to future-proof their savings, homes and businesses.”

Towards a greener future?

As all projects for 2021 are being planned today, not all construction projects will go ahead as planned when the recession hits.

1. Towards a decrease in investment because of pressure on public and private budgets?

The government and policy-makers’ reactions to such a pandemic are hard to forecast. Whilst some countries may show resistance to change and slow the shift towards renewable energies, other countries may demonstrate an aggressive approach to accelerate the transition. Ultimately, the pace of the recovery and shift will depend on how governments direct their economic recovery spending.

Some countries like Spain have announced that Feed-in-Tariffs (FiT) would be extended, others have created new ones to boost the demand for renewable energy (e.g. the United Kingdom has announced new FiTs to boost the solar industry), whilst in some countries like the United States FiTs are fading.

Many argue that including incentives for renewable projects (tax credits, investment grants, loan schemes, etc.) should be a top priority in upcoming stimulus packages. In the EU, the €1 trillion Green Deal climate package, crafted before the COVID-19 outbreak, is now being touted as a critical part of economic recovery. Yet, one wonders whether climate commitments will take a backseat in economic recovery plans with investments in clean technologies being either abandoned or scaled down.

One thing is for sure: climate change and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are being increasingly recognized as key determinants of a company’s future value creation potential. And renewable energy is demonstrating higher ROI than fossil fuels. According to a recent study carried out by Imperial College London and the International Energy Agency clean power stocks generated higher returns over the past 10 years, five years and this year — in the UK clean power companies such as John Laing and Ceres Powers have outperformed peers such as BP and Tullow over the past five years.

2. Will the lower oil prices affect renewable energy penetration?

Government policies have been forcing utilities to retire coal-fired power plants — since 2010, the net loss of coal capacity in the US has fallen by 102,000 megawatts. Yet, the recent decline in oil prices could lead countries whose economies are built on fossil economies to see a transition to cleaner energy as unnecessary.

In fact, the UK-based think tank InfluencyMap recently carried out an analysis on the corporates lobbying in the face of the Covid-19. It found that, large oil and gas players have been the most active in seeking for direct and indirect support (stimulus funds, pollution regulations and the use of the strategic petroleum reserve to bolster prices). As reported by Emily Holden for the Guardian beginning of May, records show that fossil fuel companies have already obtained $50 million in loans.

But despite the stimulus money and the weaker pollution regulations, the oil and gas industry is more vulnerable than ever. “The pandemic exposes and exacerbates fundamental weaknesses throughout the sector that both predate the current crisis and will outlast it” stated the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). Long before the crash in prices, the oil and gas industry has been projected to peak as external pressure has surfed — not only from environmental activists and regulators, but also from central banks and hedge funds — for the oil industry to diversify into lower-carbon energies.

In short, fossil energy may be cheaper now, but fossil fuel projects are becoming even riskier. With the increasing carbon-conscious investing and the worries that many fossil projects may become unviable, the lower prices are not an immediate threat to renewable energy. An indication: despite an oil price crash in 2014–2015, the renewable energy investment had a historic run.

3. The rise of a new momentum?

As said previously, without government action, this crisis could considerably disrupt the momentum around renewable energy. Conversely, with government support and carbon-consciousness, it could well be the start of a new momentum.

In fact, in Australia experts advocate that renewable energy may well drive economic recovery. According to Kane Thornton, CEO of the Clean Energy Council in Australia, “there is still a strong pipeline of renewable energy and storage projects and enormous customer demand for rooftop solar and batteries. These will be critical in replacing Australia’s aging coal-fired power stations, meeting Australia’s climate change targets and ensuring affordable and reliable power supply.”

With Covid-19, renewable energy has also gained new momentum in some countries and sectors. The transition to renewable energy has been slow in the mining industry yet even the remotest mines in Africa are now starting to consider solar, wind and energy storage. According to Alastair Gerrard, CEO of Zest WEG Group Africa, which supplies a wide range of electric motors, “the last year or two has seen a significant uptake in interest and securement of renewable energy power projects in the mining industry — which on a positive note is occurring across the African continent and not only in first world territories.”

Finally, technologies may well emerge from this crisis such as floating offshore wind farms, marine technologies and low-carbon hydrogen production. Recently Australia set aside $300 million to jumpstart hydrogen projects, the Netherlands unveiled a hydrogen strategy in late March for 500 megawatts of green electrolyser capacity by 2025 and a German hydrogen strategy is expected soon.

According to Antoine Huart, President of France Territoire Solaire, solar energy would be the energy pillar of resilience in the post New World — “produced by automated, digitalized, decentralized and abundant installations located in areas as close as possible to needs, solar energy seems to have been invented to meet the challenge of resilience.” Just as Europe has relocated lithium-ion battery manufacturing, it is questionable whether Europe will relocate solar manufacturing, since China accounts for 70% the world’s solar supply.

Conclusion

Although the shift towards renewable energy may have been slowed down, the long-term trend towards the transition to low-carbon energy will remain unchanged.

The future of the renewable energy industry will be shaped by: incumbent lobbying; consumer demand; the speed, quantity and nature of government support and the divestments and investments made (in other words, will fossil fuel investments be divested to be invested in renewable energy?).

It is, therefore, essential that countries put renewable energy at the forefront of their recovery plans to build towards a more sustainable future — before the next climate-induced event triggers another global economic shock.