Infrastructure investments are increasingly becoming mainstream. They have emerged as one of the most attractive alternative investments today because data shows that they can withstand inflationary pressures and demand fluctuations better than other kinds of investments can. Although assets under management in the infrastructure industry were only around $0.3 trillion in 2015, they increased over the next seven years to reach $1.1 trillion in 2022—a growth rate of 21%, almost twice the 11% at which investments in all alternative assets grew. The large infrastructure funds got bigger, too; the ten largest funds that closed in 2022 raised $36 billion more that year than in 2021.
As governments try to rebuild the world’s infrastructure with an eye toward ensuring a carbon-neutral world, the infrastructure investments market will continue to expand. Several governments have sought to create environments more conducive to private sector investment in infrastructure businesses, especially since public finances are limited. In the US, the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), enacted in 2021 and 2022, respectively, will boost infrastructure development. In the EU, the RepowerEU strategy will reduce the region’s dependence on fossil fuels. Our studies indicate, however, that the recent rise in infrastructure asset prices—along with the global economic uncertainty and changes in interest rate regimes—has introduced an element of volatility into the market.
The BCG-EDHECinfra study of the risks facing infrastructure investors and the returns that their investments generated found that asset owners did better than asset managers in 2022, and that infrastructure investors in Australia and New Zealand were the best performers geographically. Specialized infrastructure fund managers generated higher returns than multi-asset managers did last year, and UK pension funds topped North American pension funds, global insurers, and sovereign wealth funds.
The study also found that success in the current environment requires fresh approaches to investing and value creation. In fact, an analysis of the drivers of infrastructure investment performance over the past three years indicates that investors’ yields came primarily from declining debt and rising price-earnings multiples and that their performance on operational value creation was, at best, mixed.
Going forward, infrastructure funds will invest more in larger projects, which will take longer to evaluate, especially since there is currently a dearth of megaprojects. The larger funds will invest through development platforms, which channel public and private funds into projects that aren’t commercially viable. And the smaller funds will specialize by geography or sector. According to a survey that BCG conducted last year, infrastructure asset managers will continue to increase their investments in digital businesses, such as network utilities and data
infrastructure, and in sustainable businesses, such as renewable energy. This sector contains both older segments, such as solar power and wind energy, and newer ones, such as hydrogen, which is turning into a lucrative investment opportunity.
In 2021, demand for hydrogen was around 94 million tons, most of it in the form of gray hydrogen, which is produced from methane or natural gas and therefore isn’t environmentally friendly. But by 2050, demand for low-carbon hydrogen will approach 350 million tons per annum (mtpa) under a 2°C global warming scenario or 530 mtpa under a 1.5°C scenario. Governments and companies will have to invest approximately $6 trillion to $12 trillion between 2025 and 2050 to produce and transport enough low-carbon hydrogen to meet demand, according to BCG’s calculations.
Although investment opportunities will extend across the hydrogen value chain—from feedstock development and generation to hydrogen transportation and storage—$300 billion to $700 billion of that amount must be deployed soon, from 2025 to 2030. At each link in the value chain, the need for capital will vary by geography, with regional economic policies influencing infrastructure investors’ choices. Crucially, four novel strategies can help infrastructure investors gain first-mover advantage in the hydrogen industry.