NextEra is the new energy king

October 28, 2020

PLUS: Big Tech is prepping for the US election.
October 28, 2020
The Hustle
HP Enterprise

Yesterday, we mistakenly referred to the insurtech firm Lemonade as “Lemon.” We apologize for the error.

Here’s a real lemon for you: A month after our editor bought his first used car, the transmission went caput. He drove it without reverse for 2 years.

(P.S. We got real smart readers… many of you wrote in to say “portmanteaux” is the plural of “portmanteau.” #ThankYou)

The Big Idea
John D. Rockefeller headshot

How NextEra became America’s most valuable energy company

John D. Rockefeller must be rolling in his grave.

Even after Standard Oil was broken up in 1911, the offshoots of Rockerfeller’s oil empire — such as ExxonMobil — were the giants of American energy.

Today, America’s top energy player is a different animal entirely: NextEra, the world’s largest generator of sun and wind power, per The Economist.

The utility business is boring but crucial

While oil folk get to do the exciting work of offshore drilling, fracking, and wearing 10-gallon hats, NextEra does the unexciting work of delivering electricity to end users.

Its 2 main businesses operations are:

  • Florida Power & Light, a utility that provides energy to 5m+ Florida residents.
  • NextEra Energy Resources, which primarily builds and operates wind farms but is also active with solar power, nuclear energy, gas pipelines, and transmission lines projects.

To add to this capacity, NextEra is ramping up spending — it plans to invest a total of $60B between 2019 and 2022.

A big bet on renewables has paid off

In the early 2000s, NextEra started transitioning from coal to natural gas and renewables as an input for its energy production.

According to The Economist, the move to renewables was catalyzed by “generous tax credits.” Over the past decade, NextEra’s renewables bet looks as prescient as ever:

  • Costs are down: The unsubsidized cost of wind and solar farms has fallen, respectively, by ~70% and ~90% since 2009
  • Government mandates: Over 50% of US states require some portion of the energy mix to come from renewable sources

The pandemic has thrown the oil industry into disarray

ExxonMobil’s market cap is now $139B, about half its value 12 months ago.

Amid this new reality of struggling oil companies, there has been a recent wave of consolidation in the industry:

  • ConocoPhillips – Concho (a $9.7B deal)
  • Pioneer – Parsley ($4.5B)
  • Cenovus – Husky ($2.9B)

Rockefeller allegedly said, “If you want to succeed, you should strike out new paths.” NextEra did and — at a value of $148B today — it’s America’s most valuable energy firm.

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  • AMD is making a $35B all-stock deal for fellow chipmaker Xilinx. As with Nvidia’s recent deal for Arm, AMD spies weakness from Intel and has a high stock price to strike.
  • The beta version of SpaceX’s Starlink internet service will cost $99/month (w/ a $499 installation). It’s being dubbed “Better Than Nothing Beta” to manage expectations (LOL).
  • T-Mobile is launching a live-TV streaming service called TVision. What differentiates this from the literally thousands of other options? More flexibility and lower pricing tiers.
  • Beat it: Microsoft reported quarterly revenue of ~$37B, boosted by its cloud business (Azure), which grew 48%.
  • While cloud gaming is killing it, the best innovation in the space might be an iPhone controller: the Backbone One.
Deal or No Deal
Tiffany Diamond

LVMH tried to walk from a ~$16B deal for Tiffany. Apparently it isn’t familiar with Delaware laws.

Listen, we’ve all been there.

You’ve agreed to buy something on eBay but then got wet feet and told the seller, “Hey, sorry, my significant other says we can’t afford this.”

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) — the $211B conglomerate owned by France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault — basically tried to do the M&A equivalent of that move.

In 2019, LVMH announced a blockbuster ~$16B deal for Tiffany

The move was meant to boost the luxury house’s fast-growing watch and jewelry lines as well as lay claim to a splashy American brand.

Then the pandemic hit and lux retail didn’t look so hot. Tiffany’s same-store sales fell by 44%, and LVMH had some serious buyer’s remorse.

In September of this year, LVMH tried walking from the deal, citing concerns over US-EU tariff disputes.

US courts don’t look kindly on deal mulligans

Tiffany sued LVMH to consummate the deal, and LVMH sued back, citing that the pandemic had caused “material adverse effects.”

Per The Economist, courts in Delaware — the business-friendly state where ~50% of S&P 500 companies are incorporated — have only broken a corporate marriage due to “material adverse effects” one time (a health care deal).

Now, LVMH is in talks with Tiffany to close at a slightly lower price.

Sorry, Bernard — this ain’t eBay.

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Beyond batteries: 3 new technologies fueling energy storage

Batteries lead the way for the rise of energy storage, but the growing climate crisis has put a spotlight on alternative energy sources — think solar, wind, and geothermal heat. 

The focus is shifting to how this generated energy can be stored, enabling renewable energy to reach its full potential. New technologies are forging the path for a promising future to convert and store energy.

“For many of us in the energy storage field, the goal has always been to move beyond fossil fuels,” says Veronica Augustyn, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University. 

“I see energy storage as a start to making more in-roads into the way we generate and store electricity on a large scale.”

Here are three technologies that take innovative (but very different) approaches to revolutionizing energy storage.

Keep reading →
Shopify x TikTok
Shopify x TikTok graphic

With social commerce on the rise, Shopify’s tie-up with TikTok makes a lot of sense

We have no idea what’s going on with TikTok’s ban. But apparently the video app is very much alive and doing business-y stuff.

Case in point: It just announced a big social commerce partnership with Shopify.

According to TechCrunch, the agreement will “make it easier for Shopify’s  over 1m merchants to reach TikTok’s younger audience and drive sales.”

Run it from your Shopify dashboard

The partnership centers around TikTok ads, with tools to:

  • Monitor user actions via a TikTok pixel
  • Create native videos that can be shared in TikTok
  • Run marketing campaigns, including extensive targeting tools

As an enticement, merchants are eligible for a $300 ad credit to start a TikTok campaign.

Vogue says, ‘Influencers are the retailers of the 2020s’

This makes social commerce — AKA the marriage of ecommerce and social media — the future growth engine of retail.

Even before this partnership, TikTok has been rolling out social commerce tools such as “Shop Now” buttons and shoppable components to its hashtag challenges.

Meanwhile, this move is a way for Shopify to keep “arming the rebels” against Amazon and to keep up with Facebook’s many social commerce forays.

Check out related coverage:

  • Viral TikTok products
  • The Oracle-TikTok deal that maybe might happen
  • A DTC peanut butter brand that blew up after a viral TikTok vid
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Election Protection

How Big Tech is prepping for elections

With the US election less than a week away, here’s a roundup of how the major tech platforms are preparing for the potential spread of misinformation or worse.

Facebook may deploy emergency internal tools

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is prepping tools that slow the spread of viral content and lower the bar for suppressing potential inflammatory content.

The tech firm used these measures in “at-risk” countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and will only roll them out in the US in “dire circumstances.”

As with all things Facebook, we don’t actually know what that means — and there is concern FB will suppress legitimate news.

Twitter added election-related banners

These banners pop up at the top of timelines for US users and any time there is a search related to the election.

The banners will note that:

  • voting by mail is safe and secure
  • election results may not be announced right away

Google is partnering with the Associated Press

Searches on Google properties (Assistant, smart speakers, YouTube) related to elections will bring up official and up-to-date information from the Associated Press.

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