Identifying strategic opportunities for philanthropy to engage in sustainable land use finance

Jessica Brown, May 2, 2016

 

With growing global demand for food and fuel in a climate-constrained world, the question of how to best reorient land use towards more sustainable and productive practices is a key challenge for governments, businesses, and individuals. This is particularly true for developing countries, where agricultural expansion is a major source of economic growth and development, but also a major source of emissions and environmental degradation.

In recent years, significant international efforts have focused on developing mechanisms to deliver incentives for developing countries to maintain high-value ecosystems. This has happened primarily through bilateral and multilateral funds in support of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), as well as through voluntary carbon markets and ad-hoc payments for ecosystem services (PES) pilots. However, such mechanisms have often proved disappointing, failing to deliver on the intended results or suffering from inadequate funding and difficult implementation.

There is a need to better understand how investments are currently being delivered on the ground to support the land use sector, and to support the most appropriate interventions to shape investments towards more sustainable and less destructive land use activities.

To explore these opportunities, CPI partnered with the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) to identify entry points for philanthropic funders to unlock capital in support of more sustainable land use practices. CPI analysis shows that there are distinct, powerful, and accessible finance-related levers that philanthropy can use to unlock investment in and reorient capital towards more sustainable land use practices. Philanthropy can often act in more nimble and strategic ways compared with public donors who may be constrained by slow bureaucratic processes and competing political priorities.

These opportunities were presented to CLUA and key stakeholders at a retreat in early March, and are now presented here. In the coming months, CPI will continue this work with CLUA and will rank and more fully develop the most promising interventions that can be supported by philanthropy.

Read More

Two policy improvements to drive more renewable energy deployment through mini-grids in Uttar Pradesh, India

Stephen Comello, April 26, 2016

 

This post is co-authored by Stephen Comello, Associate Director of the Sustainable Energy Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Business and a Research Fellow at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance.

With about 80 million households across rural India lacking access to electricity, the country’s policymakers have been searching for solutions to close this development gap. At the same time, the public-sector electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs) are unable to systematically extend the central grid to where it is needed.

Off-grid alternatives include kerosene lanterns and small, individual home solar systems. However, another alternative, called mini-grids, offers what these lanterns and small solar systems cannot ­­– the promise of at-scale, off-grid electrification with productive capacity; that is, the ability to simultaneously power multiple loads such as lighting, tools, appliances and machinery.

A mini-grid is a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources that acts as a single entity. On a per unit basis, mini-grids offer electricity at least 50% lower life-cycle cost than diesel generators, kerosene lanterns and individual home systems. Moreover, mini-grid development could spur entrepreneurship and local business opportunities in the energy sector.

Enabling mini-grid development by the private sector is mainly the purview of the State Energy Boards (SEBs) across India. While the central government has developed national mini-grid guidance, clear policy that creates the mini-grid market must originate with the state governments. Formation of such a policy is a delicate balance, as there are multiple significant barriers to mini-grid development, such as financing, revenue collection and system maintenance. Most of these hurdles can be overcome with well-formed business models, supported by effective policies.

Uttar Pradesh (UP), which has some of the lowest electricity access rates in the country, has recently announced a promising first-of-its-kind new policy promoting mini-grids, which could set the benchmark for other states to follow.

Uttar-pradesh Photo credit: Flickr user sandeepachetan

The policy offers developers flexibility with respect to the general business model to be pursued through the choice of two models. Model 1 offers a 30% capital subsidy, in exchange for the DISCOM regulating project location, mini-grid technical specification, the service level, and, customer-wise tariff rates. Model 2 is arguably the diametric opposite; no subsidy offered, with the developer free to choose location, technology service level and rate charged. Given the flexibility, there has been great interest in Model 2, with 85% of applications made under this scheme.

The policy also provides guidance with respect to the key risk for mini-grids – the threat of central grid extension. There have been multiple instances where the central grid eventually extended to a mini-grid and forced the operator out because entrepreneurs couldn’t compete with DISCOMs’ highly subsidized rates. This situation is known as a hold-up problem, where a developer is deterred from making any investment, given the lack of safeguards to provide the confidence of earning an appropriate return.

The UP policy specifies that if or when the central grid extends to the mini-grid, mini-grid electricity would be purchased by the DISCOM at “the tariff decided by UP Electricity Regulatory Commission or a tariff decided on mutual consent”, and “based on the cost-benefit analysis of the installed project, the project will be transferred to the DISCOM at the cost determined on mutual consent between DISCOM and developer by the estimation of cost (or profit loss) of the project installed by the developer.”

Unfortunately, the UP policy does not fully address the hold-up problem, primarily because of the ambiguity faced by the developer in terms of securing his investment at the time of central grid extension. Specifically, the prospect of the stated “cost-benefit analysis of the installed project”, provides no guidance or methodology necessary for a developer to understand the expected value of the mini-grid in the event of grid extension before the initial investment is made. This raises concerns about the effectiveness of the policy in deploying mini-grid capacity.

Thankfully, based on a recent study at Stanford Graduate School of Business, this policy gap can be closed with two amendments which ensure that the entrepreneur would be indifferent between the event of grid extension and continuing as an independent operator.

First, the entrepreneur should have the unilateral right to transfer ownership of all distribution and generation assets of the mini-grid to the DISCOM.

Second, the transaction price must be given by the current book value of these assets. The book value must be calculated so as to reflect economic fundamentals, based on the concept of replacement cost accounting. What this means is that if revenues are set so as to cover all operating costs, depreciation and a fair return, the developer will be indifferent between receiving a one-time buyout of the mini-grid equal to current book value, or continuing to operate the mini-grid.

Taken together, these amendments would significantly improve UP’s mini-grid policy, leading to UP maximizing mini-grid investment and, therefore, deployment. The success of UP’s mini-grid policy would send a positive signal to other states, and enable them to help India move towards its off-grid deployment targets of 3 GW.

Read More

Video: Dr. Buchner on Climate Finance Beyond Paris

Amira Hankin, April 22, 2016

 

Today, delegates gather at the United Nations to sign the historic agreement to tackle climate change. Dr. Barbara Buchner, Climate Policy Initiative’s Executive Director of Climate Finance discusses next steps, pointing to three areas in particular where nations and investors should focus.

Read More

From Talking the Talk to Walking the Walk on Climate Finance

Ben Broche, April 18, 2016

 

After Paris – The need to move from talk to action

The Paris Agreement reached by 194 countries at the COP21 Climate Summit in December 2015 marks a historic turning point in a 20-year conversation about how to tackle climate change. Up to this point, there have been examples of incremental progress, though the overarching policy ambition necessary to curb climate change have been slow to come. The need to act is urgent in order to keep global temperature rise to ‘well below 2 degrees C,’ the stated goal of the Paris Agreement.

How to finance the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient world is a challenging question, especially for developing countries, which often lack the policy and financial capacity needed to spur the necessary investment.

Since 2009, developed countries have been working to scale up climate finance for developing nations, with a goal to mobilize USD 100 billion per year from multiple sources. The good news is that investment is growing – especially in key emerging economies such as China. According to the Global Landscape of Climate Finance, 2015 saw the largest amount of climate-related investment to date, with USD 391 billion of finance flowing to mitigation and adaption globally. In the lead up to Paris, the OECD, in collaboration with CPI found that countries are well on their way to achieving this goal, with an average of USD 57 billion of mobilized climate finance flowing from developed to developing countries in 2013-14.

While progress is certainly being made, the IEA estimates that approximately USD 16.5 trillion will be required from 2015-2030 to re-orient global systems to a scenario consistent with a sub 2-degree future. The need to pick up the pace and move from talk to the most concrete of actions is what defines the post-Paris world. The challenge of bridging this gap is profound, and will require concerted efforts from private and public actors, households around the world, and civil society. It will require an understanding of the actual barriers faced by all types and classes of investors, and the use of public policies and finance to minimize these. This in turn necessitates political will, robust technical analysis, and above all, innovation.

Crowdsourcing Innovation for Climate Finance

The Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance (The Lab) supports efforts to leverage investment flows to the developing world to speed up the transition to a low-carbon future by identifying, developing and piloting new financial instruments and public-private partnerships designed to overcome barriers, maximize impact, and attract private sector capital. The Lab crowd-sources ideas from the global climate finance community, including private and public investors, financial institutions, technical experts, and policy makers. Then, incorporating the guidance of a diverse set of advisors and external experts, the Lab develops, stress-tests, and refines the best of these ideas into innovative, instruments with financial backing for concrete pilots on the ground.

The approach is simple – solving the climate finance challenge, and addressing climate change on a broader level, will require bold collaboration and innovation that spans actors and sectors. Successful pilots can be scaled to incorporate larger investments, new investors, other sectors and geographies.

Read More

EU Curtailment Rules Could Increase German Wind Costs by 17% by 2020

Brian O'Connell, April 14, 2016

 

This week, members of CPI’s Energy Finance team traveled to Brussels to present and discuss findings from our analysis of financing for European low-carbon energy transitions to a panel of EU policymakers and regulators including representatives from DG Energy and DG Competition and investors. This followed a meeting in February to present findings on the German low-carbon energy transition to the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF). The discussions focused in particular on the subject of economic curtailment an issue that is not yet fully appreciated by most investors but has the potential to reduce the availability and increase the cost investment. BMWi are in the process of designing policy to help mitigate this risk.

Analysis from our latest report suggests that without appropriate policies to lessen curtailment risk the cost of onshore wind in Germany could increase by over 17% by 2020 and by even more in future years. German policymakers are in the process of designing policy to help mitigate this risk.

So what is economic curtailment? Under European Commission state aid guidelines, renewable energy generators should have no incentive to generate electricity at times of negative prices. In other words, revenue support should be suspended during these times so that suppliers of renewable power will stop generating electricity because they will be out of pocket if they continue to do so. We have defined this issue as ‘economic curtailment’ (as distinct from ‘grid curtailment’ which occurs when the grid has no more capacity to take on power) and, as renewable energy deployment increases, it is an issue that is likely to become more relevant until such time as effective energy flexibility solutions (e.g. storage and demand response) are found.

Germany has an agreement with the European Commission that this rule does not need to be applied until prices are negative for six consecutive hours or more. This reduces the potential impact on the levelised cost of electricity somewhat. Curtailing support on an hourly basis could increase the cost of electricity by over 30% in 2020. Applying a six hour rule almost halves the cost increase requirement to 17% by significantly reducing the number of negative price hours affected and therefore lowering the cost of investment by increasing the amount that debt investors would lend.

We identified and tested additional approaches that could further address the needs of policymakers and investors. The solutions we evaluated were:

Take-or-pay: One option would be to curtail production from renewable energy but continue to pay generators for the lost output. This option provides the lowest cost and risk while still offering flexibility, but under current interpretations would fall foul of EU state aid regulations by incentivising production when it was not needed.
Proportional curtailment: Negative prices generally occur when wind or solar generation is high. Our analysis shows that on average a reduction of only 15% of wind output during negative price hours would move prices into positive territory. Thus, a system that could curtail only the excess generation and allocate the cost of this curtailment amongst all fixed tariff generators would better reflect system economics. This option would only be 5% more expensive than the cost of electricity under the take or pay option.
Add to the end: Under this option any hours that are curtailed during the 20-year support period – after incorporating the 6 hour rule – can be accrued and power generation beyond this support period can claim additional support until such time as the accrued hours are used up. However, high discounting of cash flows 20 years from now, as well as the fact that such a policy does not extend the operating life of the generation assets (and therefore would add no value if future energy prices are at or higher than the fixed tariff prices), means that this policy would add almost no additional value to investors.
Cap: under this option we assume that in addition to the 6 hour cut-off there is a limit to the number of hours that can be economically curtailed each year. The impact varies depending on the cap level.

Figure 37 - Impact on bid prices of hourly, 6 hour rule and proportional

The appeal of these additional approaches depends on policymakers’ priorities and investors’ needs but our analysis suggests that if take-or-pay was not available as an option to remove economic curtailment risk then a low level cap or proportional curtailment would be the next best approaches for attracting levels of investment consistent with meeting renewable energy deployment targets and doing so at low cost.

The analysis presented in Brussels was financed by the European Climate Foundation and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate to examine how policy impacts the availability and cost of investment for low-carbon energy transitions. It aims to inform thinking on how renewable energy deployment targets can be achieved whilst minimising the cost to consumers.

For more information, please see our paper ‘Policy and investment in German renewable energy’.

And keep a look out for a forthcoming paper that will also examine finance for renewable energy in other European countries, namely the UK, Nordic countries, Spain and Portugal.

A version of this blog appeared on EurActiv. Click here to read it.

Read More

Two instruments for attracting foreign investment to renewable energy in India

Gireesh Shrimali, March 17, 2016

 

As India prepares to meet its increasing energy demands, which will likely double by 2030, the government has set a path towards ambitious renewable energy targets of 175GW by 2022, and likely 350GW by 2030. These targets are good for the Indian economy, the climate, and the 400 million Indian citizens who currently lack access to electricity.

Raising enough finance will be an essential piece of achieving these targets. Currently, it’s estimated that reaching the 2022 targets would require USD $160 billion.

Domestically, India faces a shortage of available capital for renewable energy projects. The Indian government has stated several times, most recently at the Paris climate talks, that, in order to meet these targets, a significant portion of funding will need to come from foreign sources.

At the same time, the governments of developed countries are willing to provide some of this capital, but would also like to leverage their public-sector spending, by attracting private investment to renewable energy. Indeed, greatly scaling up investment from the private sector will be essential to mobilize the full amount of capital needed to meet India’s renewable energy targets.

However, private foreign investment in renewable energy projects in India faces two key barriers: currency risk and off-taker risk.

To address both of these major risks, there are potential short-to-mid-term solutions that can both drive private foreign investment and leverage public finance from Indian and foreign development institutions and governments.

Outside of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

Photo credit: Flickr user Daniel Bachhuber

A Currency Hedging Facility to mitigate currency risk

Because currency exchange rates can be volatile, when a renewable energy project is financed by foreign capital, it requires a currency hedge to protect against the risk of currency devaluation; otherwise, foreign investors risk losing their gains due to depreciations in the Indian currency. However, longer-term currency hedges (beyond three to five years) are not easily available in the Indian market. In addition, market-based hedging in India is expensive (for example, 7% or higher for a ten year hedge), ultimately making foreign financing just as expensive as domestic financing.

One solution to currency risk could be currency hedging sponsored by the Indian government. Recent analysis by Climate Policy Initiative shows that a government-sponsored currency hedging facility, if designed appropriately, could not only provide long-term hedges (ten years) but also reduce the hedging costs by up to 50%. To do so, this standby facility, in order to reach India’s sovereign credit rating, would need to be approximately 30% of the hedged capital.

A Payment Security Mechanism to mitigate off-taker risk

The second major barrier to foreign investment is off-taker risk. In India, the major off-takers are the public sector electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs), which are in a precarious financial situation. Because of the financial state of DISCOMs, investors are concerned that the DISCOMs might default, jeopardizing their investment.

One solution to mitigate off-taker risk could be a payment security mechanism which would cover payments to investors in case of potential defaults. This would significantly reduce the perception of default risk and encourage foreign investment, thereby improving the availability of foreign capital. Climate Policy Initiative’s analysis shows that payment security mechanisms would need to be approximately 7% of capital expenditure to cover defaults over one year.

How the Indian government can help

The Indian government is in the best position to manage both currency and off-taker risks. For currency risk, macroeconomic conditions are key drivers of currency movements, and government policy can influence macroeconomic conditions. For off-taker risk, the DISCOMs are public-sector entities, essentially supported by the government.

Therefore, the Indian government and public finance should play a significant role. The Indian government can use some of its own money to fund the currency hedging facility as well as the payment security mechanism – for example, from the National Clean Energy Fund, or from the expenditure budget.

How international governments and development institutions can help

The international community can pitch in by not only supporting technical assistance but also contributing funds to these facilities. For the currency hedging facility, there may also be gains from diversification by creating the facility for multiple currencies, given that currency movements will likely offset each other.

The international community can also help by creating political will around this process of creating these facilities. This would require key engagement from government stakeholders from both developed countries and developing countries, in addition to development finance institutions like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

As we move forward with the historic climate agreement that emerged from COP21 in Paris, there has never been a better or more important time to develop and implement the solutions that can drive the required finance to India’s renewable energy targets.

The Indian government, governments of other nations, development finance institutions, and private investors all have key roles to play in moving these targets from dreams to reality.

Read More

Graphic Spotlight: What is the role of public finance in deploying geothermal energy in developing countries?

Amira Hankin, March 9, 2016

 

Despite great potential, geothermal deployment in developing countries has been below expectations since 2010. Geothermal energy has the potential to provide significant amounts of low-carbon electricity in many developing countries and is the cheapest source of available power in some developing countries.

The major barrier is securing early-stage project finance given the scarce public resources available to invest in exploration and development. While some countries are pursuing policies to liberalize energy and electricity markets to attract private investment, significant difficulties remain.

CPI analyzed three case studies on behalf of the Climate Investment Funds, with the aim of helping policymakers and development finance institutions understand which policy and financing tools to use in order to enable rapid and cost-effective deployment of geothermal for electricity.

Role_of_public_finance_in_deploying_geothermal_energy

Our case studies show that the increase in tariffs needed to provide sufficient returns to incentivize private investment can be entirely offset by public measures addressing specific risks. This graphic illustrates how these public risk mitigation measures (orange) combine to result in a final levelized cost of electricity for a privately developed project (dark grey) that is even lower than what it would have been for the state to develop it (light grey).

Read More

Three ways international development partners can help Indonesia solve its land use challenges

Angela Falconer, February 24, 2016

 

At least 25 major aid organizations have been actively engaged in efforts to reduce Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions from land use over the last five years. Several of these funders, including the UK Climate Change Unit Indonesia, and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, have even refocused a large portion of their programs in Indonesia on the land use challenge.

Photo credit: Elysha Rom-Povolo

Photo credit: Elysha Rom-Povolo

This sharp focus isn’t surprising when you take into account that 44% of global land use and forestry emissions came from Indonesia in 2012 Last year saw unprecedented emissions from forest and peat fires in Indonesia, with emissions from fires alone expected to reach around 1750 MtCO2-eq., which is almost equal to Indonesia’s entire greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors in 2012.

The involvement of many international development organizations is also good news given that the Government of Indonesia has sent strong signals to the international community that their support is needed. Indonesia has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2020, scaling up to 29% by 2030, and further extending their ambition to 41% with international support. Around 90% of that target is anticipated to come from reducing deforestation and peat emissions.

The question is, have the efforts been working?

We recently took on this question in a study that looked at international public climate finance flows to land use from major development partners, “Taking Stock of International Contributions to Low Carbon, Climate Resilient Land Use in Indonesia.”

We found mixed results.

Read More

Graphic Spotlight: Who benefits from Indonesia’s palm oil revenues?

Elysha Rom-Povolo, January 27, 2016

 

The fiscal system may inadvertently increase deforestation

Indonesia’s palm oil sector has been making headlines recently because of the sector’s connection with fires from peatland conversion. Late last year, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced a shift in peatland management, with policies designed to halt agricultural expansion into peat forests while facilitating the rehabilitation of already degraded peatlands.

Given the economic importance of palm oil, Indonesian policy makers, industry, and communities are looking for ways to grow the sector’s productivity without contributing to this deforestation and emissions.

Indonesia-palm-oil-revenue-distributionCPI analysts recently looked at how fiscal incentives for palm oil – and land use more broadly – could be adjusted to contribute to a more efficient and sustainable sector.

This graphic, produced by Tim Varga and Angela Falconer, shows that of the nearly one billion USD the Indonesian government collects annually in tax revenues from palm oil, less than 15% goes to the regions that produce the crop.

Read More

Businesses Lead on Climate Change: The Road from Paris to Davos

David Wang, January 22, 2016

 

When asked about last month’s Paris Agreement earlier this week at Davos, UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres remarked, “The signal is very clear. The signal is toward long-term transformation that is urgent…it is a transformation to decarbonizing the global economy.”

Many of this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) attendees have already recognized that signal, and after Paris, more have become aware of the opportunities this transformation can bring. Costs of electricity for most renewables — including wind and solar — are now becoming comparable to those of fossil fuels, decreasing drastically over the past five years while costs for coal and natural gas have increased. And now that the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC) have been extended, the US renewables industry finally has the policy stability it needs to securely finance a pipeline of projects without the risk of the tax benefits going away at the end of the year.

These factors and others have spurred private investors into pouring $243 billion in renewable energy in 2014, up 26 percent from the previous year. As climate exposure begins to pose serious fiduciary and business risks for investors, more and more financial leaders — including Blackrock, Citi, and Bank of America — are recognizing the risks and opportunities surrounding our current energy production and adjusting their portfolios accordingly. Tools, investment vehicles, and other products exist in the market to help businesses realize such exposure and make the necessary decisions to capture them.

Landscape_Figure5-transparent

Breakdown of total private investment by actor, 2012-2014 in USD billion

However, more can and needs to be done to effectively transition to a low-carbon economy. One area of opportunity is in unlocking additional international, cross-border finance. The majority of climate investment (74%) originates and is spent in the same place, illustrating limited cross-border investments. Domestic policy frameworks in many countries, as well as innovative financial interventions can help business scale up overseas investments, and help emerging markets embark on a path of sustainable growth.

The Paris Agreement demonstrated the recognition by the global community that action on climate change and economic growth can occur simultaneously, and the business leaders at the WEF this week are instrumental to keeping this momentum. Only by working in tandem can we realize a rapid transformation to a low-carbon economy, and it is evident from Davos that many are already on board.

Read More