Tag Archives: wind

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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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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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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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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Adjustments to Indian renewable energy policies could save up to 78% in subsidies

April 21, 2014 |

 

Recently, the Government of India announced plans to award licenses for an additional one gigawatt of solar in the next year – about half the capacity of the Hoover Dam and enough to meet the energy needs of two million people. This move is part of India’s already ambitious targets for renewable energy that aim to address rising energy demand, decrease the country’s dependence on fossil fuel imports, and mitigate climate change.

To ensure the country meets these targets, India provides a package of renewable energy support policies that includes state-level feed-in tariffs and federal subsidies, which are in the form of a generation based incentive – a per unit subsidy; viability gap funding – a capital grant; and accelerated depreciation.

However, given the ambitious goals, but limited budget in India, the cost-effectiveness of these policies is an important factor for policymakers.

Our recent study “Solving India’s Renewable Energy Financing Challenge: Which Federal Policies can be Most Effective?” took on the question of cost-effectiveness by comparing a range of policy alternatives to the status quo.

Our findings were striking. We found that a policy that both reduces the cost of debt and extends its tenor is the most cost-effective. In fact, for wind energy, reducing debt cost to 5.9% and extending tenor by 10 years can cut the cost of total federal and state support by up to 78%. For solar energy, which is more capital-intensive, reducing debt cost to 1.2% and extending tenor by 10 years can cut the cost of support by 28%.

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Climate policy in 2014

February 14, 2014 |

 

Around the world, nations are striving to use increasingly scarce resources more productively, meet energy security goals, and reach economic growth targets, all while reducing climate risk. These are complex and urgent challenges, and policy plays a critical role in addressing them.

Since our inception in late 2009, Climate Policy Initiative has been working hard to answer pressing questions posed by decision makers through in-depth, objective analysis on some of the most significant energy and land use policies around the world, with a particular focus on finance.

As we continue to tackle these important and complex issues, your feedback on how we’re doing is extremely important. We hope you’ll help us reflect on the past, as we ring in a new year, by participating in a five-minute survey about our work.

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How a Danish public guarantee facilitated an unexpected source of finance for a Swedish windfarm

September 16, 2013 |

 

Institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurance companies, hold a vast share of society’s wealth with over USD 71 trillion of assets under management. Despite being frequently cited as potential sources of large-scale investment for wind farms or solar plants, CPI recently found that barriers and management practices prevent all but a few institutional investors from actively engaging in renewable energy projects.

That’s why, when an institutional investor does engage in a renewable energy project, it is important to draw out lessons to understand what worked, what was needed to encourage their participation, and what potential exists to replicate and scale similar approaches.

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What’s working and what’s not in state renewable portfolio standards

July 11, 2013 |

 

Combined renewable portfolio standards in the United StatesRenewable portfolio standards (RPS) are an important part of the U.S. renewable energy policy landscape.Twenty-nine states, from California to North Carolina, have enacted these policies to require utilities to provide at least some of their power from renewable sources. This year, at least fourteen of these states considered bills that would have watered down or repealed these policies. But these rollbacks proved to be unpopular, and on balance state legislatures have made RPS policies more ambitious in 2013.

Taken together, RPS policies will require nearly 10% of electricity sold in the U.S. to come from renewable sources by 2020. And with the help of federal tax credits, grants and loan guarantees, most RPS policies appear to have had limited impacts on electricity rates so far. But every state’s RPS is different, and the diversity of policy designs is a great opportunity to learn what is working well and what can be improved in these policies.

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The next step for U.S. renewables is to drive low-cost private investment – and to do so as cost-effectively as possible

June 25, 2013 |

 

Today President Obama announced a goal to double renewable electricity generation by 2020 as part of a broader plan to tackle carbon pollution in the U.S.

Reaching this goal would add to the substantial renewable energy capacity the U.S. can already boast: Over the past five years, U.S. workers have built enough wind and solar farms to power over six million homes with clean energy. And in 2012, renewables comprised more than half of all new power generation in 2012 in the U.S. — surpassing all other sources including natural gas.

I recently worked with the American Council on Renewable Energy and CalCEF to look at the state of finance for renewable energy in the U.S. And in a paper released at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum – Wall Street today, we point out that this boom was enabled by the alignment of federal, state, and private interests: State-level renewable portfolio standards helped create a market for renewable electricity, federal incentives helped cover the incremental cost of that electricity, while private investors have contributed tens of billions of dollars to getting wind and solar off the ground.

So what’s the next step? What needs to happen to reach Obama’s targets?

We argue that the next step for U.S. renewable energy is to drive low-cost private investment — and to do so as cost-effectively as possibly.  CPI analysis points to five practical ways do this.

1. Maintain consistent, long-term policies by building on the success of current policy efforts. Catalyzing change in a highly regulated industry such as electricity is difficult.

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The role of risk in renewable energy deployment: A video overview

June 10, 2013 |

 

In this brief video, CPI senior director Barbara Buchner discusses the role of risk  in renewable energy deployment. She identifies opportunities for the public sector and development financial institutions to unlock capital for green investments.

Learn more about the role of risk in climate finance here: http://climatepolicyinitiative.org/publication/risk-gaps/

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