Tag Archives: renewable energy

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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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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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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Could New Investment Structures in the German Renewable Energy Market Make the Market More Cost-Competitive?

June 2, 2015 |

 

Germany is in the midst of a major energy transition, one that could serve as a model for the rest of the world. At the core of the challenge is the need to continue to grow renewable energy (and drastically reduce dependence on coal) while containing the cost of renewable energy to government and ratepayers.

German policymakers are looking to control costs by replacing the feed-in tariffs that have driven renewable energy deployment and cost reduction with new competitive mechanisms. However, if these policy changes are made without considering their impact on how projects are financed, they could inadvertently increase costs. Any changes to policy should be made with a comprehensive understanding of the current and potential investors in renewable energy and the impact that different policy mechanisms and financing structures could have on their costs and ability to invest.

CPI, with the support of the European Climate Foundation, is examining this important aspect of the transition to inform policy and financing activities that could allow Germany to advance its energy transition at lower cost. In this project, we will:

  1. Size the investment potential for different types of renewable energy across potential German investor groups in the sector – utilities, developers, financial investors, large energy users, small energy users, and municipal and other governments.
  2. Assess the market opportunity for new financing instruments, including new financing structures such as YieldCos, crowdsourcing, and municipal funding, which we identified as potential opportunities in previous work.
  3. Identify policy options that seem to have the most favorable impact or provide the biggest barriers to investment. Starting with opinions expressed by investor groups and their analysts and advisors, as well as a review of investment cases and our financial modelling, we will analyze the impact of policy changes to financing costs for different market segments.

 
Alongside this project, CPI is also working with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) on a New Climate Economy project, to identify and analyze the barriers faced by investor groups across five European countries/regions (Germany, UK, Nordic countries, Iberia, Italy).

The lessons from these projects will be relevant for Europe and beyond. With Europe’s new, more ambitious renewable energy and carbon emissions reduction targets for 2030, changes to European policies and regulations will be necessary, as well as policy and regulation in EU member states.

Ultimately, the transition to a low-carbon electricity system will require wholesale changes to policy, technology, market design, consumer behavior, industry structure, and finance. Addressing the finance portion of the equation is critical to develop a true picture of the priorities for policy development in Germany and beyond.

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India Needs to Fix Finances to Make Renewable Energy Dreams a Reality

February 16, 2015 |

 

Over the past few years, the government of India has set ambitious targets for wind and solar energy: current targets would see wind and solar capacity grow by 600 percent through 2022, to 60 GW and 100 GW of energy, respectively, from current cumulative installed capacity of about 25 GW. To put those numbers in perspective, 1 GW provides power for 700,000 modern homes; 160 GW would power a sizeable portion of India’s energy needs.

These targets are good for both India’s energy supply and for economic growth – a theme emphasised by US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently in announcing their joint commitment to increasing investment in clean energy and low-carbon economic growth.

However, this task is made difficult by the government’s limited budget, which is constrained by a large fiscal deficit and multiple development priorities.

Further, markets will not provide finance to meet these targets alone. In fact, our analysis shows that the single biggest challenge to scaling up renewable energy is the cost of finance – in particular to debt. Unfavourable debt terms add 24-32 percent to the cost of renewable energy in India, compared to similar projects in the US. Domestic debt is expensive due to unfavourable macroeconomic conditions as well as underdeveloped capital markets, and foreign debt becomes expensive once hedging costs are added.

The good news is that India can address this situation in a way that also saves money for taxpayers, electricity customers, and scales up renewable energy.

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With new market structures and business models, consumers can help states reduce carbon emissions

July 8, 2014 |

 

On June 2, in a historic move towards addressing CO2’s climate impacts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Clean Power Plan proposed rule for regulating carbon emissions from existing power plants. The regulations encourage states to take advantage of a range of CO2-reducing methods, like energy efficiency and renewable energy, rather than requiring all emissions reductions to occur at the power plants themselves. Electricity consumers can play an important role in states’ plans to meet the regulations, if regulators can take advantage of all the resources they can provide. Fully utilizing consumers’ electrical resources may require the help of new market structures and business models.

The value that individuals, households, and businesses can provide to the electric grid could be quite significant. Technologies such as rooftop solar panels, “smart” thermostats, more efficient appliances, and electric vehicles, especially when combined with smart meters and other smart grid technologies, could enable consumers to reduce the demands on the grid at peak times and help absorb excess generation from renewable generation when demand is low. As CPI discusses in our Roadmap to a Low Carbon Electricity System, many factors are already conspiring to make these consumer-level resources more valuable and accessible.

Wise use of these so-called distributed energy resources could replace some of the fossil-fuel power plants that would otherwise be needed to balance a renewable-generation-heavy grid, creating cost-effective emissions reductions. They could even make the grid more resilient to future severe weather.

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The Clean Power Plan means changes for coal, but not the ones you might expect

June 18, 2014 |

 

Under President Obama’s recently announced Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed that states cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels.

Commenters on both sides of the aisle say this rule means big changes for the coal industry.

But before we get fired up about the changes, it’s important to take a look at the facts: While states will need to retire coal plants at the end of their useful lives to meet the proposed limits, EPA’s rule would give states a great amount of flexibility to avoid coal asset stranding and still meet emissions reduction targets. In fact, valuing the right services from coal plants will prove the more important question for a low-cost, low-carbon electricity system.

Let’s look at why.

First, we need to understand what the rule really means for coal asset stranding. An asset is “stranded” if a reduction in its value (that is, value to investors) is clearly attributable to a policy change that was not foreseeable by investors at the time of investment.

In our upcoming analysis of stranded assets, Climate Policy Initiative finds that if no new investments are made in coal power plants and existing plants retire as planned (typically, 60 years for plants with pollution control technology investments and 40 years for plants without), the U.S. coal power sector stands to experience approximately $28 billion of value stranding from plants that are shut down. While that’s a big sounding number at first glance, it’s very small relative to the size of coal power sector. As the figure shows, that retirement schedule puts the U.S. coal power sector on track to come close to the coal power capacity reductions called for in the IEA 450 PPM scenario to limit global temperature increase to 2°C.

U.S. Coal Power w emissions (2)

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