Looking ahead: Amane leaders weigh in on what to expect in 2023

With rising global inflation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting price shocks and energy disruptions, as well as intensifying climate change, 2022 was packed with notable events that shaped the world; many of which will continue to impact strategic decision-making in the year ahead. 

As we move into 2023, we asked several Amane Partners to share their thoughts on key industry trends impacting decision-making across water, waste, and resource recovery and to identify areas of opportunity.

The push to decarbonize is unlocking both environmental and business benefits for water utilities and waste management companies alike.

Water utilities are dependent on energy from fossil fuels – it accounts for more than half of the sector’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And with more than a quarter of utility operating expenditure going toward energy, there is both an environmental and economic incentive to decarbonize.

“We’re now seeing more utilities exploring opportunities to generate their own energy, diversify their energy mix, and implement measures to improve and reduce overall energy consumption to drive cost savings, while also meeting climate pledges and customer expectations,” said Partner Geoff Gage.

“Similarly, waste management companies are also recognizing the economic benefits of decarbonization. Smart solutions, such as AI-based waste sorting, are driving operational improvements, enabling companies to generate higher yields from similar waste inputs and effectively reduce their carbon intensity. Additionally, more waste players are actively investigating carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technology.”

Energy insecurity is boosting demand for greener alternatives, including renewable natural gas.

In a global environment where energy supply increasingly needs to be both secure and renewable, conventional fossil fuels are less and less attractive. As more countries seek to mitigate their dependence on imported fuels, we expect renewable natural gas (RNG) to play a key role in providing a reliable and green alternative.

The recent invasion of Ukraine has revealed weak spots in the current energy supply chain. As a result, the US and Europe are looking to strengthen their energy reserves and diversify their supplies by drawing on resources close to home.

“RNG is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas and can help mitigate climate change as a renewable energy source, particularly when it’s generated from municipal sewage sludge, agri-waste, and animal manure. We’re seeing much more activity in this sector, including new financial incentives that are pushing biofuel and RNG below diesel prices, increased investment in biogas production, and the creation of greenfield plants,” said Partner Amedeo Vaccani.

With a highly fragmented market, we see opportunities for a wide variety of new and existing players across the value chain to accelerate their growth and optimize performance.”

Major companies will look inward, focusing on driving improvements in operational performance over big strategic plays. 

As the uncertain economic conditions, accompanied by rising interest rates, continue into 2023, we are beginning to see more companies refocusing efforts to improve their operational efficiency and performance – with less appetite to take on major strategic ventures or acquisitions. Major players are looking for new ways to accurately benchmark their operational performance and implement initiatives to improve plant availability, yields, energy use, and profitability.

“Benchmarking is critical to realizing a return on investments in operational performance and it takes specialized expertise to generate actionable insights from and contextualize your data. Our team is already working on several projects – across both water utility operations and in the waste-to-energy sector – to assist companies in improving efficiency. These operational investments enable companies to improve their resiliency during a downturn and prepare to ramp up activity quickly as market conditions improve,” said Partner Geoff Gage.

Interest in resource recovery solutions is growing in MENA as the region looks to decouple energy production from the oil industry.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), generating energy independently from the oil industry has become a core focus. Large parts of the region have net-zero targets, with individual companies, as well as new cities such as Masdar City in the UAE, striving to cut their carbon footprint.

Simultaneously, the region is undergoing a waste transition: 90% of the region’s waste is currently dumped, but new waste and recycling services are now being implemented.

“The confluence of these two trends – a desire for net-zero and a demand for improved waste services – is giving rise to huge opportunities for resource recovery in MENA,” said Partner Christophe Guillet.

“Energy-from-waste offers an energy source alternative to oil, whilst combatting the unsustainable dumping of waste in a region with a growing population.”

Companies across all industrial sectors are looking to address their water risk profile.

At the current pace of industrial activity, the world will experience a 53% shortfall in its global water supply by 2050. The widening gap in water supply and demand is being driven by climate change and increasing water stress – and it’s prompting many companies to reconsider how they plan to mitigate their water risk.

Water risk can manifest in a number of ways – disrupting production and supply chains, increasing operating costs, and reducing output. Both large users of water – such as those involved in mining, paper, and food and beverages – as well as all companies with direct engagement with increasingly active and environmentally aware end consumers – are particularly at risk.

“Water is not an endless resource; the supply cannot keep pace with rising demand – and it’s now a strategic issue for most global businesses. The gap will cause shortages as well as quality issues for a wide variety of companies, which is why we’re increasingly seeing businesses seeking to develop a comprehensive strategy so as to mitigate risks to their operations, reputation – and even their ‘license to operate’”, says Partner Bill Malarkey.

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