12.1

Billion Dollars

in 2019 revenue

12%

CAGR

in revenue growth, 2010 - 2020

100%

Renewable Electricity

Quanta is helping Puerto Rico transition to 100% renewable electricity


The Path to Drawdown: Grid Expansion

Solving climate change and remaining below 1.5ºC of global warming requires a massive scaling of emissions-free energy sources. 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 globe 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 needs to become more adaptable than it currently is. Many technologies -- constant renewables like geothermal and nuclear, utility-scale energy storage systems and batteries, and smart appliances -- contribute to grid flexibility.

The power grid also needs to expand to support a renewable transition. Where the grid spans larger geographies and more electricity sources, it can even out the total output and variability of renewables. Electricity generated in Texas 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

Quanta Services, Inc. (stock ticker: PWR) provides infrastructure services for electric power, pipeline, industrial and communications industries. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, they serve customers in the US, Canada, Australia, and several other countries.

PWR's Role in Drawdown

Within the electric and gas utility, communications, pipeline and energy industries, Quanta Services provides engineering, construction, and repair and maintenance of infrastructure, such as electric power transmission and distribution networks, substation facilities, communications and cable multi-system operator networks.

Their work in electric power infrastructure (p. 3) includes the design, engineering and construction of electric power transmission and distribution infrastructure and substation facilities to support utility customers’ effort to ensure the safety and reliability of the power grid and integrate renewable generation and the growing trend toward the electrification of transportation and other industries. They also work on the installation of smart grid technologies on electric power networks, engineering and construction of micro-grids, battery storage and solar generation facilities.

As part of their work on the electrical grid, an operating company owned by Quanta is providing engineering, procurement and construction solutions for the Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project (p. 60) in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, starting in September 2019. Once completed, this project will consist of 990 miles of transmission and distribution infrastructure and 22 substations.

Beyond this project, Quanta is working (p. 62-63) on a 100+ MW solar facility in Texas, a 409 MW-capacity solar-powered battery storage center, installing electric vehicle charging stations across North America, and upgrading transmission and distribution infrastructure in various locations.

All told, their electric power infrastructure segment accounts for ~70% of Quanta’s total revenue.

PWR: What We Like

There are several things we like about Quanta. One is that they’ve taken a few initiatives (pp. 66-67) to improve the environmental sustainability of their operations. For example,

  • They recycled over 1,300 pounds of electronics in 2020
  • More importantly, they’re recycling electrical infrastructure equipment - old utility poles and lines, scrap pipe, etc. 
  • They installed a 187 KW solar system at their office in Napa, California, in 2015, which has since eliminated 229 tons of CO2 from that location
  • Their Michigan operating company diverted more than 25,000 tons of construction waste from landfills

In the area of grid resiliency, Quantana is doing important work in an area that’s very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Along with two other companies, Quanta created a joint venture named Luma Energy in 2020, which aims (p. 19) to provide a resilient and clean power grid to Puerto Rico by:

  • Modernizing the grid to meet Puerto Rico’s goal of generating 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050
  • Building a grid that’s strong, resilient, and able to withstand unpredictable catastrophic events like hurricanes and earthquakes
  • Upgrading the grid to facilitate efficient power delivery and reduce electricity line loss

PWR: What We Want to See Improve

Divest from Oil and Gas Business


Alongside Quanta’s work in expanding the power grid, they also serve the natural gas and oil industries (p. 4). Specifically, they protect and conduct integrity testing for pipelines, engineer, construct and service gas and oil storage systems and pump stations, etc. For a company that professes the focus on sustainability to a great extent, their business with some of the highest emitting sectors is puzzling. We urge Quanta to pull out of this business segment as soon as possible.

Electrify the Fleet


Quanta owns and leases ~51,000 vehicles in their fleet (p. 32). And their attempt at reducing emissions so far has been to convert a portion of their fleet to electric and liquified natural gas, succeeding in reducing the emissions from the converted portion of the fleet by 49% over the last three years. We applaud this initiative and want to see them do more. But we’d like to warn Quantana that liquified natural gas isn’t clean or low in emissions and hinders the world’s transition to zero emissions. We urge Quantana to concentrate on completely electrifying their fleet, and move on this initiative as soon as possible.

Disclose GHG Emissions


As much as we like Quanta’s sustainability initiatives, we need to withhold our highest praise until we see their track record of cutting their own GHG emissions. The first step to doing that is to track and report their emissions, both direct and indirect. We want to press Quanta to disclose their scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and clearly report them in their sustainability report so that they can set targets for reducing them in the near future.

Other Grid Expansion Stocks in the Climate Index

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