17.9

Billion Dollars

in 2020 sales

60%

Zero Waste to Landfill

60% of Eaton’s manufacturing sites achieved zero waste to landfill as of 2020

19%

Reduction

in greenhouse gas emissions at Eaton’s manufacturing sites in 2020, on a path toward cutting emissions by half by 2030


The Path to Drawdown: Grid Expansion

Solving climate change and remaining below 1.5ºC of global temperature increase requires a massive scaling of emissions-free energy sources. And thankfully, renewable sources like solar and wind are quickly expanding their capacity worldwide. But to reliably provide renewable energy to every household and organization in the world, we need a power grid that’s much bigger and more flexible.

The power grid is the dynamic network of electricity generation, transmission, storage, and consumption that 85% of the world relies on. But its initial design for constant, centralized power production is not conducive to the intermittency of solar and wind power. For the world’s electricity supply to become completely renewable, the power grid has to become more adaptable than it is today. A range of technologies -- constant renewables like geothermal and nuclear, utility-scale energy storage systems, batteries, and smart appliances -- contribute to grid flexibility.

The power grid also needs to expand to facilitate a transition to a predominantly renewable world. Where the grid spans larger geographies and more electricity sources, it can even out the total output and variability of renewables. Electricity generated in California during the summer can then be used to power houses in snowy Chicago during the winter. To achieve this scale, the IEA estimates that, between 2020 and 2030, around 16 million km of distribution and transmission lines need to be built, an increase of 80% compared with the past decade.

About

Eaton Corporation plc (stock ticker: ETN) is a multinational power management company that sells utility power distribution products, hydraulic power units, hybrid power systems for the automotive industry, etc. With their corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland and operational headquarters in Beachwood, Ohio, they sell products in more than 175 countries.

ETN's Role in Drawdown

Their Electrical Americas and Electrical Global segment (p. 73) advances grid flexibility and expansion by providing electrical components, industrial components, power distribution and assemblies, residential products, single and three phase power quality, wiring devices, circuit protection, utility power distribution, and power reliability equipment.

This segment accounted for about 64% of Eaton’s total revenue in 2020 (p. 38).

ETN: What We Like

Eaton is expanding their work in grid flexibility and expansion by acquiring (pp. 77-78) companies that provide products and solutions for the utility and energy sectors around the world:

  • They acquired Tripp Lite in January 2020, a leading supplier of power quality products and connectivity solutions including single-phase uninterruptible power supply systems, rack power distribution units, surge protectors, and enclosures.
  • In December 2020, they agreed to acquire a 50% stake in Huan Yu High Tech, which manufactures low-voltage circuit breakers and contactors in China and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. 
  • In February 2020 Eaton acquired Power Distribution, Inc., a leading supplier of mission critical power distribution, static switching, and power monitoring equipment and services for data centers and industrial and commercial customers. 

On a more explicitly sustainable level, Eaton is investing heavily into their R&D (p. 36) that focuses on developing efficient and low-carbon products and solutions. For example, these include:

  • Enabling the smart grid and improving grid reliability and efficiency with advanced intelligence
  • Embedding intelligent products in the electrical infrastructure of buildings to help customers better manage their energy use
  • Combining their vehicle and electrical expertise to develop electric vehicle technologies

They’ve also set a number of sustainability commitments and targets to be achieved by the year 2030:

  • Reduce carbon emissions by 50%
  • Achieve carbon neutral operations
  • Certify that 100% of their manufacturing sites generate zero waste-to-landfill
  • Certify that 10% of their sites generate zero water discharge
  • Reduce scope 3 emissions from their solutions and throughout their value chain by 15%

And finally, Eaton has a demonstrated track record to suggest that they can hit these targets

  • They’ve increased their renewable electricity consumption by 12% since 2018
  • 19% reduction in GHG emissions (p. 4) at Eaton’s manufacturing sites in 2020

Also in 2020, 60% (p. 7) of Eaton’s manufacturing sites achieved zero waste to landfill

ETN: What We Want to See Improve

Divest from the Vehicle Segment


Eaton’s Vehicle segment (p. 73) designs, manufactures and supplies drivetrain, powertrain systems and critical components for cars, light trucks, and commercial vehicles. In other words, this segment is dependent on fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine vehicle industry. We urge Eaton to shift away from making systems for internal combustion vehicles and instead develop capabilities to manufacture products that support the expansion of electric vehicles.

Forget Carbon Neutrality, Think Zero Emissions


We absolutely applaud Eaton’s commitment to reduce their carbon footprint and we want them to go further. In particular, we think that their goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 (p. 14) is too modest. Eaton plans to do this by reducing the carbon intensity of their scope 2 emissions and reducing scope 1 emissions while using carbon offsets like investing in renewable energy and clean tech. Instead, we would like Eaton to shoot for zero absolute emissions and become a climate leader in the power grid sector.

Reduce Scope 3 Emissions More Aggressively


We’re impressed by the sheer fact that Eaton has committed to reducing scope 3 emissions - most companies don’t even track the emissions in their supply chain. But since they are planning to cut, we want them to cut even further. Given that Eaton’s scope 3 emissions are some 26.5 times more than their scopes 1 and 2 combined, we think a 15% reduction in scope 3 by 2030 is too passive. We urge Eaton to press their supply chain to reduce emissions overall and make a much bigger dent in their carbon footprint than Eaton has originally planned.

Other Grid Expansion Stocks in the Climate Index

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