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EBI News for May 27, 2020- Environmental Industry Recovery During the Pandemic

EBI News for May 27, 2020- The following section highlights the latest stories in the Environmental Industry. Including new environmental projects, solar industry declination, and growing deals/acquisitions during the pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESG funds outperform S&P 500

Investment funds set up with environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria remain relatively safe havens in the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The data provider analyzed 17 exchange-traded and mutual funds based in part on ESG criteria and found 14 funds lost less value this year than the S&P 500. Nuveen Winslow Large-Cap Growth ESG Fund was the top performer, gaining 3.4% for the year through May 15 compared to an 11.4% decline in the S&P 500. S&P Global CFO Ewout Steenbergen told investors in May that the coronavirus crisis is likely to focus more attention on ESG’s social component — in this case, how companies treat employees — and on the value of having supply chains in countries with “transparent” governments. “The acceleration of ESG will only continue,” Steenbergen said. “And certainly, the current environment will help with that.”

Investment megatrends heightened by pandemic

Technology and responsible investing will be the top two megatrends of the 2020s, according to deVere Group, an international financial consultancy. Founder and CEO Nigel Green identified two drivers: the digital revolution and environmental, social and governance (ESG). According to Green, the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of having sustainable and diverse supply chains and shown companies with strong corporate governance and good business practices are best positioned for the future. “This has been evidenced by those investments with robust ESG credentials continuing to outperform throughout the recent bouts of stock market volatility,” Green noted. “Again, the major growth and opportunities that that pattern of change creates cannot be, and will not be, ignored by retail and institutional investors.”

AECOM’s digital platform streamlines environmental assessment

AECOM (Los Angeles, Calif.) has launched AECOM Environmental Engagement, a platform that streamlines environmental documentation and stakeholder engagement throughout the environmental assessment process by presenting highly technical information in a user-friendly online and interactive format. The platform was developed by AECOM for public and private sector clients in Australia and later used to create a digital environmental impact statement for Highways England and a National Environmental Policy Act compliant digital statement on behalf of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Designed to complement the traditional paper-based environmental planning process, the technology enables project teams to consolidate photos, visualizations, sound demonstrations, videos, models and narrative into a single data platform and to create an online experience for stakeholders.

Global corporations sign up for green recovery

A total of 155 companies with a combined market capitalization of over $2.4 trillion and representing over 5 million employees have signed a statement urging governments to align Covid-19 economic aid and recovery efforts with the latest climate science. The companies, which are all part of the Science Based Targets (SBT) initiative, are calling for policies that will build resilience against future shocks by supporting efforts to hold global temperature rise to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with reaching net-zero emissions well before 2050. “It would be a tragedy if after spending $10-20 trillion of public money we simply rebuild the same unequal, vulnerable and high carbon economy we had before,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute (WRI) and an SBT board member. Collaborating on SBT are CDP, the UN Global Compact, WRI, World Wide Fund for Nature, and We Mean Business coalition.

Dudek announces UAV-based construction monitoring system

Dudek (Encinitas, Calif.), an environmental and engineering consulting firm, has announced a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Construction Monitoring System for renewable energy construction sites. Developed in 2019 with First Solar, the system collects data using UAVs, analyzes it with machine learning technology to provide material counts, and makes it available to project managers within 24 hours. Throughout 2019, Dudek said it flew daily UAV flights at eight First Solar construction sites and achieved nearly 100% accuracy. Collecting construction status data is typically done manually by site-teams. Dudek’s system “sought to streamline the often cumbersome and error-prone task… while producing highly accurate results in record time,” said Steve Hochart, practice director for Dudek’s Mapping and Surveying Group.

EA awarded stormwater contract with Port of Seattle

EA Engineering, Science, and Technology Inc., PBC (Hunt Valley, Md.) will continue to provide stormwater management services to the Port of Seattle under a recently awarded Maritime Stormwater Utility Services contract. The contract has an initial term of five years, two additional one-year extensions, and a maximum capacity of $3 million. Tasks helping to minimize the impact of stormwater runoff on local waters and aquatic habitats will include maintaining the Utility’s GIS database; supporting planning, design, construction and monitoring of stormwater infrastructure projects; and training Port employees on best management practices. EA will also help build sustainability and resiliency into the stormwater program, supporting the recertification process for the Port’s Salmon-Safe Certification, and researching and analyzing regulatory trends and permit changes.

Covid-19 erases five years of solar job growth

The U.S. solar industry will employ 114,000 fewer workers by June 2020 compared with previous forecasts that projected the industry would employ 302,000 Americans over the same time period, according to the Solar Energy Industries Assn. (SEIA). The analysis represents a 38% drop in solar jobs compared to previous estimates for June. With an expected workforce of 188,000, this job loss would take the industry back to 2014 levels as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Seven states and Washington, D.C.— including large solar states like New York and New Jersey— have seen solar job losses exceed 60%. SEIA pointed out the solar industry is losing jobs faster than the U.S. economy, and called for strategic government action to prevent further losses and allow solar to play a crucial role in the economic recovery.

Primergy to focus on solar PV and battery storage

Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners (Oakland, Calif.), an investor in lower carbon and renewable energy infrastructure, has launched a new portfolio company, Primergy Solar LLC, to develop and operate distributed and utility scale solar PV and battery storage projects across North America. David Scaysbrook, co-founder and managing partner of Quinbrook and Primergy’s chairman, said: “The industry is recognizing the increasingly important role that solar-plus-battery storage solutions will play in accelerating the energy transition…. We believe that solar plus battery storage will dominate new energy infrastructure investment in the years ahead.” A cornerstone project for Primergy will be the $1.1 billion, 690-MW AC Gemini Solar + Battery Storage Project in Nevada. Believed to be the world’s largest such project, Gemini will have the capacity to store more than 1,400 MW hours of solar power.

B&V partners with ENACT to digitize solar project management

Black & Veatch (B&V, Overland Park, Kan.) and ENACT Systems Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.), a provider of cloud-based software for the solar industry, announced a strategic partnership to advance commercial solar project management in Southeast Asia. B&V estimates that Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam will see an additional 19 GW in solar installations and capacity by 2024. With digital-based working models superseding traditional project management, especially in the wake of Covid-19, B&V’s Global Distributed Energy business will work with ENACT to automate development and deployment processes for distributed solar projects across the region, digitizing the entire project design and development process and delivering efficiencies across the solar project life cycle. 

Parsons and Fraunhofer collaborate on virus detection technology

Parsons Corporation (Centreville, Va.) has announced partnering with Fraunhofer USA (Plymouth, Mich.) to develop and commercialize a diamond electrode biosensor for direct and rapid detection of the virus that causes Covid-19. Initial testing is anticipated this summer. The effort combines Parsons’ expertise in infectious disease research and pathogen detection for public health and national security with Fraunhofer USA’s expertise in boron-doped diamond electrode technology for applications in electrochemical technology, biological threat detection, and environmental sensing.

EPA grants $65.6 million in brownfields funding

The U.S. EPA announced 155 grants for communities and tribes totaling over $65.6 million in brownfields funding through its Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant Programs. The programs support community revitalization in under-served and economically disadvantaged communities. Of the communities selected this year, 118 can potentially tackle brownfield sites in census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones, where new private investment may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. Nearly 30% of the communities selected are receiving brownfields funding for the first time. According to EPA, a study of 48 brownfields sites found an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional local tax revenue was generated in a single year after cleanup—two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of these sites.

Waste and recycling sector sees increase in deals 

Merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the Waste & Recycling industry increased 48% in Q1 2020, with nearly 35% of deals in the Environmental Services (consulting, waste technologies, and equipment) segment, according to Capstone Headwaters’ quarterly summary. Private equity (PE) firms accounted for 47% of total deal volume in the quarter. Notable transactions included GFL Environmental’s acquisition of American Waste for $360 million in cash and $20 million in non-voting GFL shares, as well as a merger between two PE-backed companies, Action Environmental Group and Apex Environmental, the merged entity to operate under the Interstate Waste Services (IWS) brand. IWS is the largest privately held waste and recycling company in greater New York City and Northern New Jersey. While many recycling programs have halted and commercial waste volumes declined, operators that serve residential and medical waste markets are poised to weather the storm without significant disruptions to cash flows, Capstone reported.

Anser Advisory acquires H.R. Gray from Haskell

Anser Advisory (Orlando, Fla.), a portfolio company of private equity firm RTC Partners LP, announced the acquisition of H.R. Gray (Columbus, Ohio), a 76-employee owner’s representative, construction management and dispute resolution firm. H.R. Gray was founded in 1979 to provide cost-effective construction management services; for the last eight years it has operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of The Haskell Company, a global design, engineering, construction, and professional services firm. “H.R. Gray’s legacy in Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as their deep expertise in managing water and wastewater projects, are strategic additions,” Bryan Carruthers, CEO of Anser, said.

Wolftank-Adisa buys Spanish remediation company Sometec Aqua

As part of its internationalization strategy, publicly traded Wolftank-Adisa Holding AG of Germany announced a complementary acquisition in environmental consulting. Sometec Aqua (Madrid, Spain), a company with more than 15 years in the soil and water remediation sector, has been acquired through Wolftank’s Spanish subsidiary Altereco. “Sometec Aqua complements an area that is one of the most important growth segments for us,” said Gustavo Mezquita, CEO of Altereco. The Sometec Aqua team will be fully integrated into Altereco.

Montrose expands internationally with Target Emission Services

Environmental services company Montrose Environmental Group Inc. (Irvine, Calif.) is acquiring Target Emission Services Inc. (Deer Park, Texas), a fugitive emission detection company operating in the United States and Canada. Terms were not disclosed. According to Montrose, Target Emission’s innovative approach has enabled it to capitalize on industry growth in the potentially $5.5 billion addressable market for leak detection and repair (LDAR) services. Along with specialized expertise in optical gas imaging to detect hydrocarbon gas leaks and vents, Target brings extensive program development experience, regulatory support, and measurement capabilities.

Woody plants could have unexpected impact on dry land water budgets

A study led by a hydrology researcher at the University of California, Riverside claims that a transition from grassland to shrubland could increase the sustainability of groundwater aquifers. Looking at the combined effects of climate and vegetation change on groundwater-recharge processes in arid environments, the study concluded that shrub encroachment on slopes could increase the amount of water that goes into groundwater storage. Moreover, the effect of shrubs is so powerful that it even counterbalances the lower annual rainfall amounts expected during climate change. Until now, researchers believed because trees and shrubs have deeper roots than grass, woody plant encroachment resulted in less water entering streams and groundwater aquifers. However, this belief stemmed from scientists performing studies on flat ground. The study, published by Nature.com, found topography also plays a role: On hill slopes bare soil between patches of shrubs drives water into streambeds and increases focused groundwater recharge even under conditions where climate change reduced the amount of rainfall.

 

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