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1. Facebook pushes into social commerce with the Shops storefront
  • Earlier this week, Facebook announced the immediate rollout of a Shops storefront on Facebook, with Instagram to follow. The new offering will help businesses set up free customizable storefronts powered by 3rd-party services (e.g. Shopify, BigCommerce, Woo). Facebook intends to support offline businesses going online, and encourage the 160M+ small businesses already on its platforms to convert to a Shop.
  • Shops can be discovered on a business’s Facebook and Instagram profiles, as well as promoted in Stories and in-platform ads. Businesses can enable users to check out directly on the storefront (for which Facebook charges a fee), or complete the transaction on its own website. Shops will store a user’s payment credentials for faster checkout on any storefront. Businesses can handle customer support through Messenger, Instagram or WhatsApp. Future plans include shoppable livestreams, purchases via chat, store catalogs, and a dedicated Instagram shopping tab.
  • Related Briefs:
    • Dec 13 2019: Tech players expand their ecosystems through payments & financial services
    • Oct 31 2019: TikTok’s rapid rise to 1.5B installs – and the global reaction
2. Renewable energy will surpass coal for the first time in the US
  • For the first time ever, the US is on pace to produce more electricity in one year from renewable energy than from coal. Part of this is driven by the pandemic-related business shutdowns, which have caused falling demand for electricity and a projected 25% cutback in coal power for this year. (Coal plants often cost more to run than gas or renewables facilities, requiring scale to be cost-effective.) A decade ago, coal provided nearly half of US energy needs; this year, it’s projected to provide just 19% (vs. 20% for renewables).
  • Across the renewable energy categories – hydro, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal – the biggest year-over-year increases in projected power generation (in absolute terms) will come from wind and solar. Both have seen substantial decreases in cost over the past decade. The build cost of a large wind farm has declined by 40% since 2019.
  • The cost of solar energy, in particular, has plummeted, becoming now less expensive than coal – once the cheapest source of energy. Solar plants regularly win auctions at a bid price of 4 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). In comparison, natural gas is around 10 cents/kWh and coal is 7-9 cents/kWh. The price is continuing to fall – the large 2-gigawatt solar PV plant being built in Abu Dhabi reported a bid price of 1.35 cents/kWh. In the US, the proposed $1B Gemini solar plant in Nevada – the largest US solar project ever at 690 megawatts – was just approved by the US Interior Department.
  • Even before the pandemic, large investors and corporations – such as BlackRock, KKR and Microsoft – were making billion-dollar+ climate-related commitments. With this current crisis in recent memory, there may be a greater willingness among businesses to suspend the “business as usual” attitude and engage with the reality of a 3°C increase by 2100 – which would be catastrophic in the literal sense and within the lifespan of our children.
  • Related Briefs:
    • Feb 26 2020: Billions in climate funding from Bezos, Microsoft, KKR & others – Why now?
    • Mar 18 2020: Looking beyond – 11 ways in which COVID-19 might be an inflection point
3. Rising demand for robots across the supply chain
  • Businesses across the supply chain are understaffed due to budget constraints, social-distancing protocols during the current crisis, and border shutdowns. Even those not understaffed are concerned about human employees engaging in certain activities that might risk spreading COVID-19.
  • There has been an uptick in demand for autonomous robots that can help manage crops, clean aisles, disinfect surfaces, place items on shelves, scan inventory, ferry items around warehouses and stores, pick and pack orders, and deliver to customers or between locations. Ahold Delhaize (which owns Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Giant Food, and Peapod), Walmart, Kroger, Gap and Amazon (which already has a sizable robotic footprint) are all reportedly picking up their pace of robotic adoption.
  • Related Briefs:
    • Apr 28 2020: Robotaxis, local delivery & the future of driverless ground vehicles
    • Mar 26 2020: Grocery delivery, ecommerce & the renewal of Walmart
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