Tag Archives: renewable energy

How are European policymakers and investors embracing the ‘new normal’ in EU renewable energy policy?

December 7, 2016 |

 

The growth of solar PV in Germany has benefited from small-scale investors

Costs have declined dramatically in the renewable energy sector and deployment levels are at an all-time high. But why does the outlook for future investments seem so mixed across Europe?

Today, policy and finance issues are now arguably at least as important as technology, with policy now the key determining factor in ensuring continued growth in renewables. Policymakers are not in the same position as they were five years ago however when the costs of technologies such as solar were much higher and policy decisions had very different outcomes. Even the costs of offshore wind are falling significantly as indicated by DONG’s recent winning bids for the Borssele 1 and 2 projects at €72.2/MWh and Vattenfall’s astonishing €49.9/MWh bid for Kriegers Flak.

In future, investment will need to come from a variety of sources and not just from large utilities which has traditionally been the case. This means that policy will need to change dramatically to adapt to this new, broader range of potential financing options.

Our latest report which is published today, European Renewable Energy Policy and Investment 2016 finds that the cost of financing will be driven as much by the types of investors as by how investors evaluate project risks, returns and policy. In other words, how investment is divided among utilities, institutional investors, households or companies is one of the most important factors determining the average cost of renewable energy to the system.

In Germany and Spain, for example, very different policy incentives were concentrated on very specific investor categories, ie, small end users in Germany and the utility sector in Spain. Both approaches achieved high levels of deployment in a relatively short time but were not necessarily cost-effective.

What does this mean for policymakers & investors?

We found that there is plenty of investment available to meet and exceed current EU and country level targets, if the right policy is in place. Policy will determine not only how much investment is available, but also the mix of investors and its cost. Policies set in motion today could develop, or close off, options that could be major sources of investment and technological advancement in the future.

In addition:

  1. Long-term targets are essential for attracting investment so a decrease in targets can be devastating for a developer since sunk development costs may need to be written off to reflect the reduced likelihood of completing the project
  2. The adoption of renewables across the EU has been fuelled by a varied mix of investor types, often introducing new entrants and causing a change to the previous ownership structure of energy systems.
  3. There is enough investment appetite in Germany to comfortably meet ambitious targets provided that support levels and other key policies are set appropriately. This gives comfort to policy makers that their ambitious targets can be achieved (and potentially exceeded), however there is insufficient capital for just one or two categories of investors to meet the targets on their own so policies must appeal to a broader investor base.
  4. Now is a good time to encourage investment with base rates at historically low levels, which in turn depresses equity return requirements, however policies are not in place to encourage this investment in many regions. Interest rate increases will necessitate higher support levels.
  5. Political risk perception is increasing and has a negative impact on investor appetite. Across the majority of EU regional contexts and renewable technologies we see a negative outlook of eroding investment sentiment.
  6. Misalignment of policies within EU member states and across EU directives is having unintended consequences, damaging the outlook for a rapid, coherent energy transition.

What does this mean for policymakers?

Policy should always encourage the lowest possible cost investment from the most appropriate set of investors in keeping with four main objectives:

  1. Balance cost-effectiveness and deployment
  2. Balance short-term cost-efficiency versus longer-term development.
  3. Develop technology mixes and options.
  4. Shape the industry to achieve industrial objectives and/or public support.

Regional views

An important part of this work was the regional perspectives, looking specifically at two countries, Germany and the UK, and two regions, the Nordics and Iberia. We also looked at three widely deployed technologies, solar PV, onshore wind and offshore wind and have forecast investor appetite within those categories for each region up to 2020.

United Kingdom

Future offshore wind investments in the UK look promising among utilities, developers and financial institutions

Future offshore wind investments in the UK look promising among utilities, developers and financial institutions

While the UK has a solid track record with building renewable power assets and is the global leader in offshore wind, its slow progress with decarbonising the heat and transport sectors means that it is unlikely to hit its 2020 renewable energy targets with the current suite of policies.

Over the last six years, the British government has changed several key renewable energy support policies including making cuts to feed-in tariffs for small and large-scale renewables, the transition away from a 14-year-old green certificate scheme with support levels set by government (the Renewables Obligation or RO) towards a Contract for Difference (CfD), with support levels set by competition. These changes have caused a period of uncertainty among investors.

If the current macroeconomic environment persists, investor interest in the UK market will likely mean sufficient capital is available to fund the existing project pipeline. However, it is likely that there will be less competition for projects as some investors are put off by political uncertainty, meaning less downward pressure on the cost of capital than there otherwise might have been.

Germany

Future investments across all categories in Germany look promising

Future investments across all categories in Germany look promising

Germany has the third-highest level of renewable energy installations by capacity in the world behind the US and China. It also has a range of ambitious targets that exceed the minimal levels set out by the EU. These targets include achieving 35% of generation from renewables in 2020, 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, and keeping CO2 levels at 60% of 1990 levels by 2020.

While Germany’s goals for onshore wind and solar remain ambitious, it is clear that policymakers are setting their sights on offshore wind as a major new source of energy. Our analysis indicates that these targets are, overall, achievable.

Now that amendments to Germany’s renewable laws have been announced uncertainty has reduced, although it will take some time before the significance of these changes is fully understood. Once investors fully understand the impacts of policy changes, then it is very likely that the ambitious renewable deployment targets can be achieved.

Iberia

Potential investments could be large in Iberia, but investor appetite is still low in the region

Potential investments could be large in Iberia, but investor appetite is still low in the region

The last decade has seen a period of upheaval in Spanish and Portuguese politics, and in particular in their once-thriving renewable energy sectors. Following the global financial crisis, governments in both countries have taken greater control of rates of growth in the renewable sector. The investor pool has shrunk, chilled by uncertainty and losses because of a series of regulatory changes.

In Portugal, recent M&A transactions suggest that international investor confidence in the sustainability of the regime remains, however, as in Spain, short term political objectives remain uncertain.

There are important lessons to be learned by policymakers both in the peninsula and outside about the importance of long-term planning, transparent regulation made by independent regulators, and a balance between the interests of all stakeholders in the energy system. These will be instructive if the countries are to pursue the next phase of decarbonisation successfully in the 2020s. Reducing the tariff deficit and increasing interconnection with the rest of Europe will be vital steps towards strengthening the case for more renewables.

 

Nordic region

Future investment in the Nordic region favours larger investors, such as utilities developers and financial institutions

Future investment in the Nordic region favours larger investors, such as utilities, developers and financial institutions

The Nordic region’s objective is to accelerate and implement a smooth energy transition in a market characterized by general over-capacity, low wholesale prices, flat or limited demand growth and most of the EU 2020 targets already achieved. In such a market, maintaining the momentum of the transition is not an easy task. In fact, investors that had initially piled into the Nordic wind market due to its intrinsic resource value, have more recently been hurt by low prices due to the oversupply of green certificates. These have resulted in investor losses, reduced incentives for new wind investments and an overall reduction in investor interest in the region.

However, investors and capital remain available, while the intrinsic long-term value of Nordic wind resources remains world class.

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EU winter package brings renewables in from the cold

December 1, 2016 |

 

Joint press conference by Maroš Šefčovič and Miguel Arias Cañete on the adoption of a Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy

Christmas came early yesterday in Brussels, with the release of some heavy reading for the EU’s parliamentarians to digest over the festive season. Or at least that was the more jovial take on the launch of the EU winter package from Maroš Šefčovič, the EU vice-president in charge of the Energy Union (pictured).

Targets to cut energy use 30% by 2030, the phasing out of coal subsidies and regional cooperation on energy trading are central to the proposals, which updates the regulations and directives that support targets set out in 2014 as part of the Energy Package 2030.

Whether this gift is not just for Christmas will be down to the EU parliamentarians who have two years to debate these proposals and implement them.

So where does it leave us with the growth of renewables, the underpinning for a decarbonised power sector? If the EU meets its 2030 target, 50% of electricity should be renewable compared with an EU average of 29% today. That target remains unchanged, so those engaged in producing clean energy for Europe’s electricity grid should be reassured – up to a point.

A great deal was made of scrapping priority dispatch for renewables after that proposed change was ‘leaked’. In the end, the Commission merely soften its language but the outcome remains the same on priority dispatch, implying that policymakers think that renewable generation should be more responsive to the market.

Yesterday, Šefčovič and the Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete both acknowledged that renewables need to be more integrated into wholesale markets, and those markets need to be more coordinated with each-other. Specifically, the package encourages member states to:

  • ensure that renewables participate in wholesale and balancing markets on a “level playing field” with other technologies. In particular, the new package removes the requirement for renewables to be given priority dispatch over other generation types (which most, but not all, member states currently abide by). It instead requires dispatch which is “non-discriminatory and market based”, with a few exceptions such as small-scale renewables (<500kW). In addition, renewables should face balancing risk and participate in wholesale and balancing markets.
  • increase integration between national electricity markets across the EU. Requirements include opening national capacity auctions to cross-border participation and an interconnection target of 15% by 2030 (ie, connecting 15% of installed electricity production capacity with neighbouring regions and countries). Earlier this year, the Commission established an expert group to guide member states and regions through this process.

What does this all mean for investors? The obvious concern is that removal of priority dispatch and exposure to balancing markets will increase revenue risk for renewables generators.

So, why is the EU removing these rules on priority dispatch once the mainstay of the Commission’s wholesale market rules? The main argument is to help reduce the costs of balancing supply and demand, and managing network constraints. Generally, it is most economic to dispatch renewables first because their running costs are close to zero regardless of whether they have priority dispatch.

But, when there is surplus generation, the most economic option is sometimes to curtail renewables ahead of other plant. For example, turning down an inflexible gas plant only to restart and ramp it up a few hours later can be expensive and inefficient. By contrast, wind generators can be turned down relatively easily.

Therefore, giving renewables priority dispatch can sometimes increase the overall costs of managing the system. When renewables were a small part of the market, any inefficiencies caused by priority dispatch were small and easy to ignore, while it helped reduce risks around renewables investment. But now renewables are set to become the dominant part of electricity markets it is harder to ignore.

Nevertheless, risks around balancing for wind can cause real headaches for investors. In our report from earlier this year, Policy and investment in German renewable energy we found that economic curtailment could increase significantly, potentially adding 17% to onshore wind costs by 2020.

The amount a generator is curtailed depends on a wide range of uncertain factors which wind investors have little or no control over (eg, electricity demand, international energy planning, network developments and future curtailment rules).

What could happen next?

So to maintain investor confidence (and avoid costly lawsuits) existing renewables investments need to be financially protected as rules are changed. There are many ways to do this. For example, priority dispatch status could be grandfathered for existing generators (as the winter package suggests) or, as set out in our recent report of Germany, generators could be fully compensated for curtailment through “take-or-pay” arrangements.

More generally, very clear rules around plant dispatch and curtailment are needed to avoid deterring investment. Ideally, dispatch will be determined by competitive, well-functioning balancing markets, where renewables are paid to be turned down based on what they offer, rather than by a central system operator curtailing without compensation.

The move to integrate renewables into balancing markets means they will compete with other options to balance the system such as storage and demand-side measures. These flexibility options should benefit from the sharper price signals and greater interconnection implied by winter package. But there is no clear consensus yet on the right business and regulatory models to support investment in flexibility. However, CPI is currently working on a programme as part of the Energy Transitions Commission to explore the role of flexibility in a modern, decarbonised grid and will be publishing our findings soon.

Ultimately, there is an unavoidable trade-off in designing electricity markets: it is very difficult to provide incentives for generators, storage and the demand-side to dispatch efficiently through market mechanisms without also exposing them to some risk. Yesterday’s announcement in the winter package means more countries will have to face this dilemma.

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise stated, the information in this blog is not supported by CPI evidence-based content. Views expressed are those of the author.

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A call for innovative green finance ideas to help India meet its climate goals

November 24, 2016 |

 

Last week, I was in Marrakesh speaking at this year’s UN climate change conference, COP22, where I witnessed an important transition in moving from talk to action. Just a few weeks before the start of COP22, the Paris Agreement officially entered into force – the historic international agreement for action on climate change that emerged from COP21 last year. While COP21 was about promises and commitments, COP22 was about working out the details to put those promises in place.

Under the Paris Agreement, India has pledged that renewable energy will be 40% of the country’s expected electricity generation capacity in 2030, along with a 35% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030 from 2005 levels. In addition, India has also set one of the most ambitious renewable energy targets of all – 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, including 100 GW of solar power.  These important targets are not only good for the climate, but can also help meet the energy demand of India’s rapidly growing economy and population.

However, a lack of sufficient financing for renewable energy in India may present a formidable barrier to achieving these targets. This was a key item of discussion at COP22.

An upcoming report from Climate Policy Initiative shows that in order to meet the target of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, the renewable energy sector in India will require $189 billion in additional private investment, a significant amount. The potential amount of investment in the renewable energy sector in India is $411 billion, which is more than double the amount of investment required. However, in a realistic scenario, the amount of investment expected falls short of the amount required by around 30%, for both debt and equity.

A call for innovative green finance ideas - Potential equity and debt investments

In this context, and as India moves to implement its commitments under the Paris Agreement, the work of the India Innovation Lab for Green Finance is increasingly important. The India Lab is a public-private initiative that identifies, develops, and accelerates innovative finance solutions that are not only a better match with the needs of private investors, but that can also effectively leverage public finance to drive more private investment in renewable energy and green growth.

The India Lab has recently opened its call for ideas for the next wave of cutting-edge finance instruments for the 2016-2017 cycle, in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and public transport. Interested parties can visit www.climatefinanceideas.org. The deadline to submit an idea is December 23rd.

The India Lab is comprised of 29 public and private Lab Members who help develop and support the Lab instruments, including the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the Ministry of Finance, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the development agencies of the French, UK, and US governments.

In October 2016, the India Lab launched its inaugural three innovative green finance instruments, after a year of stress-testing and development under the 2015-2016 cycle. They will now move forward for piloting in India with the support of the Lab Members. The three instruments include a rooftop solar financing facility, a peer-to-peer lending platform for green investments, and a currency exchange hedging instrument. Together, they could mobilize private investment of more than USD $2 billion to India’s renewable energy targets.

Now that the Paris Agreement has been ratified and the real work begins, the India Innovation Lab for Green Finance can help India transition from talk to action by driving needed private investment to its renewable energy targets. Visit www.climatefinanceideas.org to learn more and submit your innovative green finance idea by December 23rd.

A version of this first appeared in the Huffington Post.

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CPI analysis supports C40 call for action on increasing cities’ access to climate finance

October 19, 2016 | and

 

This week at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) is making a call for action on municipal infrastructure finance, highlighting the financing needs of cities and their key role in driving sustainable, low-carbon and resilient growth.

Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) endorsed this call to action as part of our work to support cities’ access to climate finance and to help them achieve value for money. In the last year, we worked with the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance to publish its State of City Climate Finance 2015 report and are currently analysing the green bond markets in order to develop guidelines for cities in developing countries to raise climate finance from this fast growing source of climate finance. This second piece of work is part of the Green Bonds for Cities project.

Our work supports C40 findings. For instance, C40’s call to action identifies multilateral and bilateral development banks as important actors in responding to city needs. Our analysis finds that taken together DFIs provide 94% of all green bond flows to cities in developing countries and multilateral and bilateral DFIs provide 82% of all green bond finance channelled to developing countries in general.

There are other possibilities for cities to tap green bond finance flows, however, aside from cities issuing their own bonds. National development banks provide an interesting option, for instance. While multilateral DFIs were the first to direct green bond flows to developing countries, domestic DFIs such as national development banks (NDBs) are now providing a growing share, now up to 18% of flows.

Green Bond DFI Flows to Developing Countries

The market is changing elsewhere too. Development finance institutions were the sole providers of green bond finance to developing countries from 2008-2013 but domestic corporates in the renewable energy sector have since begun to issue bonds. They have been joined by commercial banks from China and India which have linked the finance raised to green loans. City or municipal-based infrastructure development companies also commonly raise finance for cities in developing countries such as China, often with central government guarantees.

Global green bond market flows to developing countries

Our market analysis will feed into guidelines for city administrators and stakeholders in developing countries on how to access increased finance from the green bonds market. In the coming weeks, CPI and partners working on the Green Bonds for Cities project will provide toolkits and training sessions. The project is funded as part of the Low-Carbon City Lab (LoCaL) under Climate KIC.

CPI will also soon publish analysis looking into the role of NDBs in supporting implementation of nationally determined contributions. Sign up here for updates on these and other projects.

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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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Understanding green bond data can help cities in developing countries tap the market

September 6, 2016 |

 

The population in developing and emerging countries is urbanizing at three times the rate of developed countries. But cities in the ‘Global South’ have limited access to capital to invest in water, energy, housing and transportation systems to meet the needs of growing urban populations.

Many of them raise capital through local banking sectors whose loan terms are often unsuitable for funding new infrastructure. Capital markets offer an alternative source of cheaper and longer-term finance but less than 20% of cities in developing countries have access to local capital markets and only 4% have access to international capital markets.

In recent years, green bond markets have emerged as a new way for investors in the capital markets to access sustainable investments. Cities have taken note. European cities in France and Sweden have been issuing green bonds since 2012. Municipalities in the US have a long track record of raising low-cost debt in the municipal bond market but only recently have begun to label bonds as ‘green’ in order to meet this demand signal from investors.

So how much finance has flowed from green bond markets to cities in developing countries?

Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) analysis shown in the chart below shows that approximately USD 2.2 billion of total flows in the green bond market have been directed towards cities in developing countries (“the South”) compared to USD 17 billion in developed countries (“the North”).

Global green bond market flows

The figure below breaks down the sources of those flows to cities in the North and South. Cities in the North mainly use their own municipal (MUNI) issuance power (84%) but also benefit from Development Finance Institutions (DFI) linking city-based projects to their green bonds (13%) while cities in the developing countries in contrast rely almost entirely on DFIs to raise finance for their projects (94%).

To date, Johannesburg’s USD 137 million bond is the only municipal green bond issued in developing countries. Important work to help address this imbalance is underway. It aims to develop local capital markets and improve the creditworthiness of cities.

But if a city cannot issue bonds, what is the potential of other channels open to them to access finance from green bond markets? Helping local governments and city administrators in developing countries to identify these channels and increase their access to the green bond markets is one way to close this investment gap. This is why CPI is contributing analysis and developing guidelines for accessing the green bond markets as part of the Green Bonds for Cities project.

Our analysis shows the sources of green bond market flows to developing countries are diversifying.

Since 2008, USD 39 billion has been directed to projects or activities in developing countries. From 2008-2013, this consisted entirely of flows from Development Finance Institutions but, from 2014, domestic corporate issuance began to grow and was then joined by issuance from commercial banks from China and India in 2016.

Global green bond market flows to developing countries

Clearly, cities don’t necessarily need to issue their own bonds to tap the green bond market. City or municipal-based infrastructure development companies could provide one option for them to do so. Such companies commonly raise finance in developing countries such as China, often with central government guarantees.

Public-private partnerships with corporations or commercial banking institutions could help cities leverage their green bond issuances for new infrastructure developments.

Perhaps the avenue with the most significant potential is through domestic, bilateral and multilateral development finance institutions (DFIs). DFIs could scale up their own green bond mandates to increase support for city-based infrastructure in developing countries, work to source and help finance projects, and eventually support cities to issue their own bonds through guarantees or other risk mitigation instruments.

Green Bond DFI Flows to North and South

The chart above reveals three interesting insights into DFIs’ green bond issuance:

  • Domestic DFIs in developing countries, such as NAFIN in Mexico and the Agricultural Bank of China, already account for 18% of total flows from DFIs’ green bonds to the South. They could provide a potential source of collaboration for cities.
  • Multilateral DFIs such as the World Bank, EIB, ADB and AfDB currently only link USD 2 billion of the USD 18 billion flowing to the south to city-based projects. There is potential to scale-up.
  • In combination, multilateral and bilateral DFIs such as EIB, EBRD and KfW’s send more green bond flows to projects in the North than the South. USD 25 billion of flows goes to the North versus USD 21 billion of flows to projects in the South.

CPI’s analysis will inform guidelines for city administrators and stakeholders in developing countries on how to develop a market access strategy for the Green Bonds for Cities project. From autumn 2016, this project will provide toolkits and training sessions with the aim of expanding green bond market flows to cities in the South.
CPI is working with South Pole Group on this in collaboration with ICLEI and Climate Bonds Initiative. The project is funded as part of the Low-Carbon City Lab (LoCaL) under Climate KIC.

This op-ed was originally published on Environmental Finance.

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

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.

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Two instruments for attracting foreign investment to renewable energy in India

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.

Renewable energy in India - 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.

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Instruments of Change: Raising Investments for India’s Climate Commitments

December 18, 2015 |

 

The international climate agreement that emerged from the Paris negotiations this past weekend marks a historical turning point for the whole world, but particularly for India.

As a part of the global climate deal, national governments have shared plans for their countries’ action on climate change, and India’s contribution is ambitious — promising that renewable energy will be 40% of the country’s expected electricity generation capacity in 2030, along with a 35% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030 from 2005 levels.

India has also set one of the most ambitious renewable energy targets of all ¬- 100GW of solar power by 2022. This is more than half of the amount of solar power deployed worldwide at the end of 2014, and more than 20 times India’s current solar deployment. Additionally, India has also set a wind power target of 60GW by 2022, up from 25GW currently.

At the same time, Prime Minister Modi’s administration is likely to significantly increase the production of domestic coal. This is because one of the nation’s top priorities is to rapidly deploy energy in order to meet the needs of its growing economy and to provide electricity to the 400 million Indians who currently lack it.

Recognising the harmful air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that an increase in coal production will bring, Prime Minister Modi stated during the Paris negotiations a willingness to further move away from coal if there were more finances available for renewable energy.

However, India faces two key challenges around funding for renewable energy and other green infrastructure: a shortage of available financing, and financing at unattractive terms — such as high cost of debt, short tenor and variable interest rates — which can add up to 30% to the cost of renewable energy in India, compared to the US or EU.

 

Public-private collaboration will be essential to raising the finance needed for India’s cleaner growth. While the right domestic policies will be key to facilitating finance, greatly scaling up investment from the private sector will be the only way to mobilise the full amount of capital needed to meet India’s renewable energy targets.

In order to scale up private investment, India needs financial instruments for renewable energy and other green infrastructure that are a better match with investors’ needs.

For example, one source of investment that has great potential but requires innovative finance instruments to facilitate it is foreign investment. Over the next five years, India expects over $160 billion of investment from international developers and banks to finance renewable energy projects. However, foreign investors are wary of investing in infrastructure in India due to the risk of extreme and unexpected currency devaluation.

Because currency exchange rates can be volatile, when a renewable energy project is financed by a foreign loan, it requires a currency hedge to protect against the risk of currency devaluation. Currently, market-based currency hedging in India is too expensive, making foreign financing just as expensive as domestic financing. An innovative instrument that can reduce the currency hedging cost could mobilise more foreign capital and spur investment in renewable energy.

A new public-private initiative in India, the India Innovation Lab for Green Finance, aims to identify, develop, and accelerate these innovative solutions to drive more investment for green growth in India.

The India Lab brings together experts (from the government, financial institutions, renewable energy, and infrastructure development) to select and help launch this next wave of cutting-edge finance instruments. Since its launch on 12 November, the India Lab has received the endorsement of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, and was supported in a joint announcement on energy and climate by Prime Minister Modi and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK in November.

The India Lab is currently seeking ideas for innovative finance instruments for renewable energy (including utility scale, distributed, and off-grid), energy efficiency, urbanisation, and other channels for green growth that can overcome barriers and risks and scale up more capital from new investors. Interested parties can visit www.greenfinancelab.in/ideas to learn more.

The new global climate agreement represents a moment of opportunity, for both India and the rest of the world, to capture the momentum and excitement that has come with the hope for a more climate-resilient future, and channel it into real work and real action.

There has never been a better, or more important, time to scale up finance for renewable energy projects and other green infrastructure that can support cleaner economic growth in India.

The India Innovation Lab for Green Finance can help India achieve its vision for a cleaner and more prosperous future by driving needed private investment to its green infrastructure targets. Let’s get to work — now.

A version of this first appeared in the Huffington Post.

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Three ways to attract domestic institutional investment for renewable energy projects in India

September 10, 2015 |

 

Institutional Investment

In order to achieve India’s renewable energy targets of 175 GW of solar and wind power by 2022, approximately USD 100 billion of investment in renewable energy infrastructure will be required, including USD 70 billion of debt.

While these ambitious renewable energy targets are important and admirable, financing them is going to be no easy task. Renewable energy in India has traditionally relied on domestic commercial banks for financing; however, this bank financing has become constrained by several limitations. Many banks are nearing their exposure limits to the power sector, and existing regulations do not distinguish between lending to fossil fuel-based power and renewable energy. In addition, the typical tenor of bank loans is around ten years, whereas most renewable energy projects require longer-term financing that matches the project life cycle of 20 to 25 years. Finally, bank debt at 12-13% interest rate is also costly; and together these inferior terms of debt – the high cost, short tenor, and variable interest rates – make renewable energy in India approximately 30% more expensive than in the US or the EU.

Achieving India’s renewable energy targets is going to require mobilizing a lot more debt at more attractive terms, from alternative sources.

One promising solution is domestic institutional investors, such as insurance companies and pension funds, who are ideally positioned to both increase availability of debt and provide debt at more attractive terms to renewable energy projects. Compared to commercial banks, institutional investors not only invest over longer terms, but also accept lower returns in exchange for lower risks, thus providing a better match with the risk-return profiles of renewable energy projects.

Preliminary analysis by CPI, performed earlier this year, shows that these institutional investors are likely to invest approximately USD 400 billion from 2014 to 2019. Based on their traditional share of 3.75% of their investments going to the power sector, if this share could be diverted to renewable energy, that would provide USD 15 billion of debt financing – a significant amount of the debt required to meet the targets.

So, what’s the catch? First, given high risks during construction, institutional investors, who prefer low risk, are unlikely to invest in renewable projects before they start operation. Second, even for operational projects, institutional investors require a domestic debt rating of AA or higher, which most renewable energy projects do not have.

The first issue is manageable – domestic banks can continue to fund projects under construction, and institutional investors can help refinance operational projects. This would free up bank debt to be used for new projects.

As to the second issue – enabling institutional investment will require financial instruments that can raise the credit rating of renewable energy projects. There are two promising instruments that may be able to do this: infrastructure debt funds by non-banking financing companies (IDF-NBFCs) and renewable energy project bonds with partial credit guarantees (PCGs).

IDF-NBFCs are pooled investment vehicles designed to facilitate investment across infrastructure sectors, including renewable energy. PCGs are a form of credit enhancement where the borrower’s debt obligations are guaranteed by a guarantor with a strong credit rating.

Both of these instruments can reduce risks to meet institutional investors’ minimum requirement of an AA rating. Compared to commercial loans, they have the potential to provide provide more attractive terms of debt by lowering the cost of debt by up to three percentage points, and increasing the tenor by up to five years.

However, both instruments face structural and regulatory issues which have impeded their use as investment vehicles. We identified three of the key issues that, if addressed with the right policy changes, could enable institutional investment in renewable energy.

First, for both instruments, the domestic debt market does not differentiate between construction and refinanced loans, making it hard for banks to release debt for refinancing. This can be addressed by encouraging public banking institutions to provide loans during the construction state of renewable energy projects, in order to catalyze the construction debt market.

Second, IDF-NBFCs require a three-way agreement between the project developer, the project authority (usually state-owned power distribution companies called DISCOMs), and the IDF-NBFC. However, in India, the poor financial health of DISCOMs presents a risk. The government can mitigate this risk by creating a model agreement for IDF-NBFCs which includes government guarantees for off-taker risk and robust termination provisions.

Third, for renewable energy bonds with PCGs, existing regulations limit institutional investors to investing in only up to 10% of the bond offering. This would require more than ten institutional investors per bond offering, which is difficult given associated transaction costs and the small number of institutional investors in India. Relaxing this regulation so that investors could subscribe to 25-33% of the bond offering would help address this barrier, making it possible to raise the required debt from only three to four institutional investors.

By taking these three steps, the government of India may be able to make significant progress towards financing India’s renewable energy targets, by harnessing the potential of institutional investment into renewable energy.

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