Investment Strategy

The energy transition is ramping up. Investors should take note.

Jun 20, 2023

The U.S. government is supercharging clean energy spending and some sectors may see increased profitability. Here are a few opportunities to consider.

The energy transition—that is, the gradual shift toward a low-carbon energy mix—is ramping up.

Over the last two years, Congress has passed several laws designed to accelerate the pace of decarbonization and draw in private investors. These laws should help, particularly the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022, which includes incentives for renewable energy suppliers, and on the demand side, for users to choose electric vehicles (EVs).

Global investment in the energy transition hit a record $1.11 trillion in 2022,1 up 31% from the year prior, and we expect this trend to accelerate. Government involvement and the range of opportunities available make the energy transition an attractive long-term investment.

Where are investments in the energy transition trending now?

On the energy supply side, we are looking at suppliers of renewable energy components such as solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and wind turbines. On the energy demand side, we see opportunities in electrified transport and the technologies that make it possible, such as semiconductors and energy storage.

Here are the top three areas we’re watching as this future unfolds.

Global investment in the energy transition has surged recently, led by renewables, electric vehicles and batteries

Top three opportunities we are watching in the energy transition

Source: Bloomberg NEF. Data as of January 2023.
This chart shows annual global investment in energy transition projects from 2004 to 2022, broken down into three groups: renewable energy, electric vehicles, and energy storage and other. Since 2014, there have been consistent year-over-year increases in total investment, and a noticeable acceleration from 2019 to 2022, mostly driven by electric vehicles. Total annual investment in the energy transition was $1.11 trillion in 2022, more than double the $522 billion of 2019, with last year’s electric vehicle investment nearly four times larger than its respective investment three years prior ($466 billion in 2022 vs. $123 billion in 2019).

Let’s start with energy supply.

The U.S. IRA of 2022 provides billions of public dollars for domestic energy security and climate change–related programs.2 It’s expected to stimulate about $3.5 trillion in private capital spending on U.S. energy supply infrastructure over the next decade―mostly in solar and wind.3

Clean energy manufacturers can earn the IRA’s tax credits if they use components produced in the United States, and we’ve already seen companies make significant moves to take advantage of these “strings attached” credits. One multinational company has announced plans to build a facility in Oklahoma that may become the largest solar cell and panel manufacturing facility in the United States.

Why we see opportunity: We think renewable energy manufacturers that configure their production to qualify for IRA subsidies could potentially double their profitability by 2025.4 Companies have acted quickly to do so. In the eight months after President Biden signed the bill into law, more capital investment in American renewable energy projects and factories was announced than in the previous five years combined.5 We are watching solar PV cell and wind turbine makers, both beneficiaries of the IRA.

Emerging trends: We believe current market conditions make it an opportune time to rebuild equity portfolios, including by expanding allocations to manufacturers working within the energy transition.6 Global thematic equity funds can also offer exposure to companies manufacturing renewables components—including those taking advantage of the U.S. law’s incentives.

Powerful government incentives also are creating attractive investment opportunities on the energy demand side. The IRA seeks to stimulate demand with a $7,500 tax credit for consumers who purchase a new EV7—with strings attached. Buyers only get the full credit if a certain fraction of the EV battery’s components and critical minerals (that increases over time) is sourced in the U.S.8 The rationale: enticing EV makers to source components onshore, and scale up their domestic supply chains.

Turning the United States into a major EV component hub would be a striking change. China currently dominates the battery and mineral supply chain.9

Why we see opportunity: With support from the IRA, corporate ambitions to expand EV adoption in their fleets have accelerated, and that potentially large new customer base suggests broad investment opportunities. By 2026, annual passenger EV sales in the United States are projected to be more than three times larger than 2022 levels (expanding from 8% to nearly 28% of new car sales).10 Producers of critical minerals and batteries could potentially benefit from growing order volumes.

Government industrial policy is also driving corporations to develop more sophisticated and innovative U.S. EV supply chains, creating additional potential investment opportunities. We’ve noticed many automotive companies committing significant capital:

  • One U.S. automotive company announced a deal with a lithium producer to secure 10 years of exclusive access to its lithium deposit, the largest in the United States, in Nevada. Other carmakers are deepening their ties with miners of critical minerals in the United States so that their EVs will use domestic materials, allowing them to qualify for the IRA’s consumer tax credit.11
  • An innovative battery recycling company is investing $1.1 billion to supply U.S. makers of lithium-ion batteries with parts made from recovered metals. The batteries will qualify for the critical mineral requirement—and will be produced in a newly created closed-loop supply chain.

Emerging trends: We are watching the equities of companies “upstream” of EVs, such as suppliers of critical minerals and battery solutions, as well as private market opportunities in battery recycling.

On a path toward net zero, annual demand for battery-specific metals and minerals is expected to expand significantly

Source: BloombergNEF. Data as of January 2023. Note: Lithium is expressed in million metric tons lithium carbonate equivalent. Multiples between 2022 and 2050 are based on annual demand in the given year.
This chart shows the expected growth in demand for metals and minerals used in lithium-ion batteries from 2020 through 2050, under BloombergNEF’s Net Zero Scenario. The majority of the minerals shown are used for the battery cathode (manganese, nickel, cobalt, lithium, etc.), a major determinant in the performance of the battery, and demand for these minerals surges by mid-century. Measured in million metric tons, demand for manganese in 2050 is expected to be 29 times larger than 2022 levels, and for lithium demand this multiple is 22. Projected demand for lithium-ion batteries is dominated by the expected growth in the passenger EV market, noted in the article, and many battery-specific minerals should benefit from increased order volumes.

Semiconductors are proving crucial to decarbonization. Renewables need them, and they improve energy efficiency dramatically, helping reduce carbon emissions through their central role in “smart” electric grids and other critical devices. The semiconductor industry is poised for growth as chips penetrate the clean energy value chain: in photovoltaic solar cells, wind turbines, EVs, batteries, charging stations and power grids.

Why we see opportunity: Alongside the IRA, another U.S. law―the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022―is also driving opportunities. CHIPS allocates over $50 billion to subsidize domestic manufacturing of advanced semiconductors. These government incentives, combined with the wide variety of uses for semiconductors, have pushed companies to ramp up supply.12

The case for semiconductors is twofold: Subsidies should act as a production tailwind, while demand will likely surge due to current trends, including the energy transition (and artificial intelligence, too).

Emerging trends: We think global semiconductor equipment companies should have significant upside in the coming decades.

We see promising investment opportunities along the renewable energy value chain as energy transition technologies evolve toward mass adoption. Call your J.P. Morgan team to learn more about a world of possibilities, and read more about how the new U.S. laws are reindustrializing the United States and impacting investors.

1 BloombergNEF, “Energy Transition Investment Trends 2023,” January 2023.

2 In all, $369 billion over the next decade. “Summary: The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” Senate.gov, 2022.

3 Princeton University ZERO Lab, “Preliminary Report: The Climate and Energy Impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” August 2022.

4 Joseph Seydl, “The opportunity in renewed U.S. industrial policy,” J.P. Morgan Private Bank, June 2023.

5 Clean Energy Investing in America, American Clean Power, April 2023.

6 Mid-Year Outlook 2023: The Recession Obsession, J.P. Morgan Private Bank, June 2023.

7 Plug-in electric or fuel cell vehicles placed in service on April 18, 2023, and after.

8 To qualify for credits, 100% of battery components by 2029 (and by 2027, 80% of critical minerals) will need to be sourced in North America.

9 BloombergNEF, "China’s Battery Supply Chain Tops BNEF Ranking for Third Consecutive Time, with Canada a Close Second", November 2022.

10 BloombergNEF, “Long-Term Electric Vehicle Outlook 2023,” January 2023.

11 Matt Blois, “GM to invest $650 million in Nevada lithium mine: The deal is the largest investment by a carmaker in lithium mining,” Chemical and Engineering News, February 2, 2023.

12 More than 35 companies have pledged nearly $200 billion for U.S. semiconductor manufacturing since Congress passed CHIPS. Robert Casanova, “The CHIPS Act Has Already Sparked $200 Billion in Private Investments for U.S. Semiconductor Production,” Blog, Semiconductor Industry Association, December 14, 2022. 

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