The Ethical Investor: ESG moves, lessons from the energy crisis and JP Equities’ stock tips
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The Ethical Investor is Stockhead’s weekly look at ESG moves on the ASX. This week’s special guest is JP Equity Partners’ director and partner, Nic Brownbill.
The world is in the grip of an ongoing global power crisis that has seen energy prices soaring by thousands of percentage points.
From China to Europe and now India, the cost of energy is surging drastically. The price of natural gas has even quadrupled in some parts of the world.
But economists are now warning this might be just the first of many power crunches the world will see as we transition into the new economy.
According to a research paper by CommBank’s analyst Vivek Dhar, there are two main root causes that led to the crisis — a strong demand recovery from the pandemic, and an acute shortage of two key power-producing fuels – natural gas and thermal coal.
As economies reopen, there is a sudden pent up demand from consumers which meant that factories were forced to switch on their production capacity at short notice. This was exacerbated by a colder than usual European autumn, as the continent potentially faces a more-freezing-than-usual winter season.
In China, the crisis mainly stemmed from an undersupply in local production of coals, according to Dhar, adding that coal supply has been hampered in China because of the government’s own environmental protection regulations.
So what can we learn from all this?
Dhar reckons that we are transitioning into the new economy too fast, too soon.
“What the recent energy crisis has shown is that the energy transition needs to be planned carefully,” Dhar wrote.
“This will mean significant investment in renewable generation, batteries, electricity grids and hydrogen.”
But he thinks the roll-out of a decarbonised grid and role of gas need to be clearly defined too.
“Under-investing in gas infrastructure relative to its role in coming years will only serve to make Europe’s energy market more vulnerable to prolonged gas shortages, and increase dependence on Russia.”
Like Europe, China’s decarbonisation ambition will need to be planned as well, Dhar said.
“If coal mines and coal power plants are closed before a renewable replacement is in place, power shortages in China could be an ongoing concern.”
Australians have chosen climate change as the top ESG priority, according to the latest survey conducted by global ESG consultant, SEC Newgate.
And more than half of the 1,000 Aussies surveyed said they were happy with the direction the government is taking on the environment.
These results should provide food for thought for PM Scott Morrison, who’s currently caught in a political wrangle with the Nationals in setting our 2050 climate goals.
The PM has told Liberal colleagues that he wants to bring a binding 2050 net zero commitment to the COP26 Summit in Glasgow next month, without having to upgrade Australia’s 2030 commitments.
Nationals Leader and also Deputy PM, Barnaby Joyce, said however that he was willing to back the 2050 targets only if funding for regional producers and farmers were made as part of the deal.
Nic Brownbill, a partner at JP Equity, told Stockhead that decarbonisation is a mega global investment opportunity, one that JP Equity wants to be all in on.
How big is the potential for ESG investing?
“We see the whole decarbonisation theme as the next mega global investment opportunity. An estimated $41 trillion is required to decarbonise the planet. It’s going to be a bigger opportunity than the crypto market, because unlike cryptos, the carbon market is going to be mandated by governments, major asset managers and pension funds.”
Which segment of the ESG market do you see outperforming?
“Some companies will fall short in trying to make their carbon targets, so the balance will need to be met with carbon credits. I think carbon emissions will eventually be metricated, and the carbon offset market is going to be a way for major companies to offset their emissions.”
Would that investment opportunity catch on in Australia?
“I believe the Australian market hasn’t really caught on to the opportunity of this yet. But I think something will really start to emerge from the COP26 conference in November, where you’ll see a sustained mega theme starting to unfold in this country.
“I think we will start to see a complete emergence of Australian companies in the carbon space over the next few months and beyond.”
What are the ASX stocks that JP Equity likes in the carbon credit space?
One ASX stock that we’ve been watching very closely is Fertoz (ASX:FTZ). They’re a leading North American fertiliser manufacturer that produces a unique low-emission rock phosphate product that increases crop yield by 15%.
“Importantly, it can generate significantly lower CO2 emissions in manufacturing compared with other commercial fertilisers.
“This presents a really significant opportunity because agriculture as a sector accounts for 24% of all human generated greenhouse emissions. Fertoz is one of the first movers in the carbon credit market, and since May this year has been issuing carbon offset credit certificates.
“It’s not a matter of if, but when disclosure of carbon emissions will become metricated. And as a result, Fertoz is getting some strong enquiries from other companies looking to offset their footprints by buying carbon credits.”
Any other ASX stocks you like in the ESG space?
“We’re also bullish on Mpower (ASX:MPR). The company is Australia’s leading specialist in renewable energy, battery storage and micro-grid business. It has a focus on five megawatt solar farms, and is in the process of creating an initial portfolio of 20 sites across Australia in the coming years.
“That gives them an aggregate capacity of around 100 megawatts, and an estimated value of more than $150 million. It’s now down to what the team can deliver in some of those projects to build up the portfolio.”
The energy giant announced that it was targeting a 50% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, and a 15% reduction by 2025 from a 2018 baseline of 32.6Mt.
Around $7.5 billion in direct capital expenditure will be spent on decarbonising Rio Tinto’s assets from 2022 to 2030, including $0.5 billion per year from 2022 to 2024.
The company released its Sustainability Report for 2021, outlining its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).
STA said it’s focused on managing development risks at its Coburn project in WA to safeguard workers and ensure environmental compliance.
The company has appointed global consulting firm Deloitte to ensure a robust ESG program at its Maricunga project in Chile.
Deloitte has been tasked to imbed sustainable protocols in LPI’s lithium extraction operations, and to establish ambitious standards for LPI to become a carbon neutral producer, while keeping high standards on the social aspects.
The company also said it has completed its maiden Sustainability Plan, with strategies aligned to the UNSDGs.
The views, information, or opinions expressed in the interview in this article are solely those of the interviewee and do not represent the views of Stockhead.
Stockhead has not provided, endorsed or otherwise assumed responsibility for any financial product advice contained in this article.