Tag Archives: clean energy

Millennials: the new power generation fueling the future with clean energy

October 12, 2016 |

 

wind-turbines

You might expect wind industry executives at last week’s AWEA Wind Energy Finance & Investment Conference 2016 in New York to talk enthusiastically about the transition to clean energy. But over the last year, utility companies and Independent Power Producers (IPPs) have joined them – proclaiming that that the clean energy future has arrived now – much sooner than any of us thought possible.

What’s driving this? First, in much of the US it now costs more to generate additional electricity by burning more fossil fuel in existing plants than it does to buy it from a new utility-scale onshore wind or solar PV farm. This is a result of steady policy support and steep cost reductions in solar and wind costs.

But another, less well-known driver is that the millennial generation – the largest generation in US history, even bigger than the Baby Boomers – wants renewable energy. Utilities and IPPs point to surveys that indicate a strong demand pull from millennials as their emerging customer base with a strong desire to get off coal. Millennials want their electric vehicle, or better still car share vehicle, to be powered by the sun and wind, not millennia-old carbon.

For the renewables industry, it’s a perfect storm. But one of the challenges the industry now faces is to figure out how it can finance all that new generation in a market with low costs of generation, low demand growth, falling prices, and subsidies that are scheduled to phase out over the next decade.

The only way this can happen is if costs can keep falling.

One way this could happen is through continued technological progress. Last month, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published their forecast for a 24%-30% drop in the Levelized Cost of Electricity for wind by 2030 and a 35%-41% drop by 2050.

But we think the decrease in costs could be even more dramatic than that with new financing instruments that could reduce the cost of financing by 20%, which in turn will accelerate those LCOE reductions.

Over the past year, we have been working with investors on such an instrument as part of a program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Despite the volatility YieldCos experienced last year, we believe there is a new model that can salvage the positive elements of this design, while restoring a much closer link to the cash flows of the underlying renewable assets.

The new instruments – Clean Energy Investment Trust (CEITs) – will still be publicly traded listed vehicles, but instead of a growing portfolio of assets, each CEIT will consist of a fixed portfolio of assets generating reliable cash flows over the life of the vehicle. A closed pool of assets, the CEIT would offer a fixed income-like return profile that would be more sustainable over the long term but at a level somewhat higher than currently available on investment grade bonds.

uday-on-awea-panel-cropLast week, I spoke about CEITs during an AWEA conference panel moderated by Susan Nickey at Hannon Armstrong who led the introduction of Real Estate Investment Trust (REITs), a market now worth $1.8 trillion in the US.

We’re hoping for a similarly transformational impact from pension funds and insurers looking to match their investments with their long-term liabilities. Our analysis shows that US-wide, a 10% reduction in Power Purchase Agreement prices would allow wind to economically displace an additional 30.5GW of mostly coal generation and 154.5 million tons of CO2 – equivalent to taking 28.2 million cars off the road.

CPI Energy Finance’s executive director, David Nelson, will this week present some of our work on CEITs so far to an audience of institutional investors – pension funds, life insurance companies – at the IPE Real Assets & Infrastructure Investment Strategies Conference in London. We will also be publishing several reports on CEIT structure and market potential by the end of the year, the first of which you can read here.

Pensions and life insurance policies are probably the furthest thing from the minds of Millennials, many of whom are just now coming of age and entering the job market. But their expectations about the world they want to live in and actions to mitigate climate change are driving a transformation in energy that will benefit not only their generation, but those that follow them.

 

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In India, Renewable Energy Certificates are missing the target

February 11, 2013 |

 

In 2008, India’s National Action Policy on Climate Change set a renewable portfolio standard, called the Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO), to produce 15% of the country’s electricity with renewable energy sources by 2020. Further, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, the Indian government aims to develop 20,000 MW of solar energy by 2022.

To help reach these ambitious targets in a cost-effective manner, India launched a market-based mechanism called Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) in 2010.

However, in the one year of trading so far, participation in the REC markets has been low: RECs have failed to attract investment. Though the design of the REC mechanism appears adequate, the performance of the market has been far from satisfactory. This, along with other issues, such as the cost of debt, translates to real concerns over whether India is on track to meet its ambitious targets.

So why is this happening?

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Renewable portfolio standards – the high cost of insuring against high costs

December 17, 2012 |

 

State-level renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are a critical part of the U.S. renewable energy policy landscape. 29 states and Washington DC have enacted mandatory RPS policies. Taken together, they require that nearly 10% of U.S. electricity comes from RPS-eligible renewable energy sources by 2020.

But state policy makers have expressed concern about the potential cost of these policies. Over 20 states have included some form of cost limit in their policy. These cost limits are intended to protect electricity consumers from unacceptably high costs, and mitigating this risk can help increase political and public support for the policy. But depending on how they are designed and implemented, these cost limits can have unintended effects: They can increase the cost of deploying renewable energy, make RPS policies more complicated and less certain, and sometimes do not even limit costs as intended.

States have taken a wide range of approaches to limiting costs. Common approaches include:

  • Alternative compliance payments – ACPs let electricity suppliers meet their renewable energy requirements by making a payments rather than purchasing renewable energy credits or contracting with renewable energy projects. These payments are often used to fund complementary clean energy or energy efficiency programs. The ACP level is usually set by a regulator, and in practice, creates a maximum price for renewable energy credits.
  • Rate impact caps – Some states put a limit on how much renewable energy policy can increase electricity rates. These mechanisms vary significantly from state to state in terms of which renewable energy costs are included, how they are calculated, and the time period that they apply to.
  • Per-customer cost caps – A handful of states place a limit on the dollar amount any particular customer’s bill can increase because of the RPS.
  • Contract price caps – A couple of states have applied limits on the price that a renewable energy generator can contract to sell power to a utility.
  • Funding limits – Several states have created limits to the amount of funding that can be used to cover the costs of renewable energy.

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What’s Next for Green Growth?

October 22, 2012 |

 

For a long time, international climate negotiations have been viewed as the cornerstone of global efforts to both curb climate change and support green growth. But the assumptions that launched the negotiations 20 years ago no longer hold true. New economies have grown in size and standing; they are no longer interested in following, but in leading. This is reflected on the ground as negotiations fail to make progress at the scale and pace that the climate challenge requires.

Despite lackluster progress towards a global accord, there are bright spots all over the world. Emerging nations such as China, Brazil, Indonesia, and India have been working seriously to explore the transition to clean economies. Many developed nations have taken a leadership role in reducing emissions or pursuing clean energy, are exploring innovative policies, and are supporting efforts of developing nations.

If we pay attention and learn from these bright spots, we may find that there are productive opportunities to advance our goals, and that in fact, there may be opportunities to reframe negotiations to build from these efforts.

At CPI we see three important ways to advance the next phase of green growth. And as an organization dedicated to finding and fast-tracking effective climate policies, we’re supporting all three around the world:

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Taxpayers could save on wind and solar

October 4, 2012 |

 

When something really good is advertised at half price, my first thought is “this is too good to be true.” After doing the research, if I find the deal is really all it’s cracked up to be, I spread the word to as many people as I can, so they can save too.

That’s why, when my research team discovered how much taxpayers stand to save through small changes to federal wind and solar policies, we quadruple-checked our numbers, asked other experts if what we were seeing was correct, and then made a commitment to let as many people know as possible.

It’s no secret that wind and solar in the United States are booming. Renewable electricity generation more than doubled since 2005. While this growth was financed largely through private investment, state and federal policies played a key role in helping these new, important industries expand.

Policymakers support wind and solar because renewable energy brings many benefits for the American people. But key renewable incentives are expiring just as federal lawmakers are looking for opportunities to reduce the deficit. Policymakers understandably want to balance support for renewable energy with these fiscal pressures.

It turns out there are ways to do just that. Let me explain.

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