RECAI: Latest developments

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Country-specific highlights

China chances offshore. China has finally introduced higher offshore wind tariffs in a bid to galvanize a relatively undeveloped sector. Non-auction projects operational before 2017 will receive up to CNY0.85/kWh (US$0.14), while projects in intertidal waters will receive CNY0.75/kWh (US$0.12). A 13GW solar capacity target for 2014 has also been confirmed, heavily focused on distributed projects. A series of tax incentives were introduced in June, and further measures are expected calling for subsidies and financing to help reach the estimated 8GW target for off-grid solar installations in 2014.

France begins the march. France’s long-awaited energy law will finally make its way through parliament after cabinet approval in late July. It will crystalize President Hollande’s goal of reducing nuclear to just 50% of total electricity by 2025 from around 75%, 32% of energy from renewable sources by 2030 (more than double the current share), and 75% emissions reduction by 2050. The draft proposes measures such as tax breaks and low interest loans, with the Government expecting around €10b (US$13b) of investment as a result.

India reboots. Having already reintroduced accelerated depreciation for wind projects and begun exploring the potential for over 300GW of desert region wind and solar developments (needing around US$33b of investment by 2022), India’s new government has re-energized its clean energy ambitions. Also, large-scale solar is expected to achieve grid parity with coal by 2017, five years earlier than projected. Critically, the Government has also launched an US$8b grid upgrade program to strengthen a weak infrastructure that has hindered renewables development.

Australia makes its mark. Having officially repealed its carbon pricing legislation in July, Australia has made it clear that it intends to revise the subsidy mechanisms for renewable investments. The latest proposals to scrap dedicated clean energy funds, and its ongoing review of the national Renewable Energy Target (RET) has created uncertainty. The RET will probably be revised downwards, but the issue has become very political, with the outcome difficult to predict. Find out more

Italy goes retro. Early August saw a series of retroactive measures pass into law affecting Italian solar PV projects above 200kW, which asks asset owners to accept an 8% tariff reduction, or a 17%–24% decrease with payments for an additional four years. The changes would be effective from January next year, and will impact an estimated 11GW of capacity (out of a total 18GW), though the legislation is already the subject of legal challenge. Find out more

Japan revisits nuclear. Despite Japan’s significant renewable energy potential and sustained project activity, the transition to renewables is taking longer than expected, and an apparent weakening of its resolve to move away from nuclear, despite public opinion, is sending mixed signals. A new energy plan approved in April identified nuclear as a key baseload power source, gave coal a prominent role in the energy mix, but failed to set specific renewables targets.

Deal, investment and policy highlights

Fighting the yieldco fatigue.

One would be forgiven for stifling a yawn at the words “yieldco” or “IPO”, but it is difficult to ignore the stream of listings continuing to hit the headlines.

While there is still skepticism about how much capital these models can really leverage, and their fate remains bound to interest rates and economic recovery, they are still an attractive option, with Q2 alone seeing eight clean energy IPOs totaling US$1.1b.

In July, SunEdison’s yieldco spin off, TerraForm Power, raised $502m after surging 32% on its trading debut, while Abengoa Yield also achieved a higher-than-expected price, raising US$721m in its June IPO.

Also in June, NextEra Energy Partners, a carve-out of NextEra Energy, raised US$406m. Solar developer Sungevity Inc. is also reported to be considering an IPO following SolarCity’s successful listing in late 2012.

So it would seem that if enthusiasm for IPOs is waning, no one has yet told the market.

Bound to the bond.

Maybe the same can be said of the continued surge in green bond issuances, and with around US$22b raised in the first seven months of the year alone, it is not a market to be easily dismissed.

In August, NRG Yield issued a US$500m bond to part-fund its US$870m acquisition of North America’s largest wind farm, Terra Gen Power’s 947MW AltaWind project.

Meanwhile, late July saw German development bank KfW raise €1.5b (US$2.0b) in its first ever green bond issuance, following strong demand that took orders to more than €2.6b (US3.4b).

At the same time, Switzerland's largest insurer Zurich Insurance Group announced plans to allocate as much as US$2b for green bonds, double its previous commitment.

If the current pace is maintained, BNEF expects the total volume of green bonds issued to reach US$40b this year, almost triple 2013’s US$14b, and much higher than the US$25b market analysts predicted at the beginning the year.

Offshore record.

Representing the largest offshore wind financing to date, the US$3.8b financial close of the 600MW Gemini wind project off the Netherlands coast reaffirms that non-recourse project finance is more than a memory.

The transaction, led by Canada’s Northland Power, involved 12 commercial banks (providing €1b (US$1.3b) in total – also the largest commercial tranche ever – the European Investment Bank, and three export credit agencies.

The deal strongly signals banks’ continued willingness to take construction risk for well-structured projects, and that new types of investors are interested in the sector.

The lending community’s acceptance of the Netherlands’ CfD mechanism is also encouraging for other offshore markets, such as the UK, that depend on similar models.

Q2 2014: New worldwide clean energy investment

New clean energy investment of US$63.6b in Q2 2014 is the strongest quarterly performance for two years, making it more likely that full-year figures will show a rebound in global investment.

With most sectors and geographies seeing an uplift in Q2, total investment was also boosted by large financings, such as the 600MW Gemini offshore wind project, and Israel’s US$818m 121MW Ashalim CSP plant.

Small-scale solar deployment, up 41% on Q2 2013, has also contributed to the strong performance.