Innovation and inspiration
PA Consulting’s Amy Marshall, consumer energy lead and global head of sustainability, discusses PA’s innovation and transformation services and smart mobility sector expertise, with Steve Welch in Energy Engineering.
Steve Welch (SW): Your Name, Job Title and Responsibilities?
Amy Marshall (AM): I am Amy Marshall, a Partner at PA Consulting where I lead Consumer Energy and am also the Global Head of Sustainability. As well as this, I am one of three leads who are heavily invested in growing PA’s Clean and Smart Mobility offering. We lead ambitious projects with our clients on energy transition, zero emission fleets, EV (and hydrogen) infrastructure, connected and autonomous mobility, future of transport and mobility services. PA’s multi-disciplinary clean and smart mobility team spans from consulting projects that cover strategy and deal advisory, to managing large scale projects in the private and public sector, through to product design and technical diligence for various elements of EV infrastructure.
SW: Could you tell me a little about your background in the sector?
AM: I came to clean and smart mobility from the energy sector. Having worked within the sector for over a decade, my energy clients started to ask about how they should think about what impact the electrification of transport will have on their businesses – the increase in demand it would entail, the impact on their business models and the potential for new competitive forces. From there I have worked across the full value chain from vehicle manufacturers, to investors, charge point operators, cross sector organisations looking to transition their fleets, and software and data service providers.
SW: Could you provide a brief summary of your organisation and offering to the market?
AM: PA is an innovation and transformation consultancy, and together we are over 4000 strategists, innovators, designers, consultants, digital experts, scientists, engineers, and technologists. The services we provide span the entire innovation lifecycle, from designing and launching new products to scaling businesses into market leading organisations. We work all the way across the electrification of transport, but to give a few examples, our advice in Clean and Smart Mobility includes:
- Strategy, policy development, and M&A – supporting governments with a transition to clean transport including targeted strategies to grow adoption of EVs and investment in hydrogen power generation
- Operationalisation and optimisation – supporting organisations in their fleet electrification journey process, helping organisations navigate the complex vendor partner ecosystem, and developing public charging commercial strategies.
- Design and engineering – providing technical engineering support to innovate at pace and scale.
- Business and digital transformation – facilitating business and digital transformations as organisations pivot to capture opportunities across the clean and smart mobility value chains.
SW: Who in the main are the companies you engage with and in what way?
AM: We believe in tackling challenges across the traditional industry silos. Much of the innovation needed as we transform and decarbonise our transport system will come from new businesses that don’t fit the mould, or those that tackle challenges in a lateral and ingenious way. We work across all sectors – particularly when we think about transforming vehicle fleets – and we bring experience that’s common to all sectors to our clients for their benefit, alongside a deep understanding of the sectors they operate in. Our clients include fleet owners; electric vehicle infrastructure providers and chargepoint operators; local and central government; Distribution Network Operators and energy retailers; financial investors, and data, software, and service providers.
SW: What do you see as the key trends in the sector?
- The first is powertrain. Electrification now has pretty much won in the light duty vehicle sector albeit that supply needs to match increasing demand, particularly when it comes to vans. With HGVs and trucks the jury is still out and there is more innovation needed to find a way forward.
- Second is the role mobility will play in the energy system. The emergence of smart grid technologies, battery storage and flexibility markets are exciting developments. Vehicles really could have an important role in balancing grid demand and supporting renewable generation. There is huge emerging potential for harnessing connected vehicle and grid data across the transport and energy ecosystems. This data can be used for local authority planning and for investors and operators to build sustainable business cases for future infrastructure.
SW: What are your objectives looking ahead to 2023 and beyond?
AM: We want to position ourselves as the go-to advisors at the intersection of the transport and energy sectors. The future of transport and mobility is merging with the future energy ecosystem, and we are doing some significant work in that space. Our design and systems thinking led approach will help us deliver against this objective for our clients. It is a socially positive journey that we are supporting as part of the energy transition, and we also want to have fun with it and enjoy the ride.
SW: What are the main challenges facing the sector more generally and for you specifically?
AM: We need to work out how to go green without going into the red. Managing the transition is tough so how can operations be evolved and maintained throughout the transition? And how do you educate and upskill your workforce? We’ve lived and breathed these challenges with our clients, but our approach of smart operations, smart infrastructure and smart financing has smoothed the transition. We want to make the transition as attractive to CEOs, MDs and CFOs as it is to the chief sustainability officer. We believe that the transition must be looked at in the round across both cost and carbon impacts –to support our efforts in this area, we have even created a fleet transition optimiser tool that looks at the dual lenses of carbon and cost in transitioning fleets.
SW: Do you have a project or case study you could provide some details of?
AM: As the eMobility ecosystem evolves, the value of data generated and transferred within the industry will increase, with companies competing to own or utilise data projected to grow by over 1,000% by 2030. We worked with Equinix, a global digital infrastructure company, to understand the impact of data sharing and ownership in the EV infrastructure space. Following interviews with industry experts across the EV charging infrastructure value chain, ranging from Auto OEMs to Charge Point Operators (CPOs), Trade Associations and Academia, we produced a whitepaper on ‘The role of data in the future of EV infrastructure’ and the impact an open and interoperable charging ecosystem will have on the entry of new companies, fostering innovation and, eventually making it easier for the customers. Findings concluded that the eMobility industry will require a platform that interconnects data within the ecosystem to assure the market matures alongside digitalization. This will allow for the aggregation of edge infrastructure between multiple parties, which in turn facilitates data sharing and collaboration alongside cloud and physically adjacent infrastructure. As mobility and energy data collide, the demand for an aggregated platform will rise, with data interconnectivity companies like Equinix at the centre of this innovation.
SW: How would you sum up your message to the market?
AM: It is inevitable that we’ll have to burn less to power more, and that demands ingenuity. The market is at an inflection point – with the policy levers, private sector investment, and entrepreneurial spirit to really accelerate the change. Follow the clean electrons and let’s talk about how we can make it work.