Cost competitiveness key to longer-term success as clean energy faces challenging 2012

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London, 28 May 2012: Investment in clean energy during Q1 2012 has dropped to its lowest levels since 2009 according to EY’s latest quarterly global renewable energy Country Attractiveness Indices report (CAI) released today.

The report shows there is good reason for long term optimism in the global renewable energy sector as more mature technologies move ever closer to grid parity. However, the short to medium term sector outlook is generally downbeat as the Eurozone debt crisis and increased competition from Asian manufacturers continues to focus the minds of European policy setters. The shale gas boom and political resistance to tax credit extensions also continue to pose significant challenges to the US market, the report finds.

The UK outlook

The indices scores 40 countries across the world in respect of their national renewable energy markets, renewable energy infrastructure and the growth potential of individual technologies. The ranking for the UK has dropped from 5th to 6th position, partly as a result of concerns around the UK’s commitment to renewables amid speculation that the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is considering natural gas to be a possible bridge fuel for the country. There has also been a re-weighting in the index which takes into account the growing importance of solar within the global energy mix; this has had a negative impact on the UK which is traditionally a wind-heavy country given its strong resource and offshore potential.

The UK’s solar industry also received a fresh blow following DECC’s proposals for another round of Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) cuts in the coming months. However, the renewable energy sector as a whole, and offshore in particular, was boosted by plans to implement a significant spending programme to improve the country’s transmission infrastructure for renewable energy sources.

Ben Warren, EY’s Energy and Environmental Finance Leader, explains: “There is significant concern across the green energy sector that the Government will shift its focus towards natural gas as an alternative to renewables. The Electricity Market Reform needs to deliver the right framework to stimulate investment across all forms of energy generation, including renewables. 

He adds: “The recently published draft energy bill is a welcomed step in the right direction and signals clear progress, however it is important we clarify certain aspects of the new regime, particularly around the offtake arrangements for independent generators in order to avoid uncertainty for investors.”

Businesses implement energy mix strategies to mitigate rising costs

To look at the impact on businesses, EY commissioned a global survey of one hundred US$1b-plus companies operating within energy intensive sectors,  identifies key issues faced at C-suite level. This revealed that 38% of respondents expect energy costs to rise by 15% or more in the next five years. They ranked energy efficiency, increased usage of renewable energy and growing energy self-generation are the themes driving corporate energy mix strategy discussions.

While reducing costs through energy efficiency measures is often the foremost objective of an energy strategy, a number of other subsidiary goals are also crucial, such as energy security, carbon reduction, and price stability; with regulatory compliance and reputational aspects also playing a part.

As the largest global corporations tackle the challenge of transforming to a low-carbon and resource-efficient economy a variety of technologies are being deployed. These include energy demand management (47%), building energy management systems (20%), energy-efficiency lighting (18%) and building automation (18%).

The survey also found that 41% of respondents generated some form of renewable energy with company-owned or controlled resources such as solar, wind, or bioenergy. However this practice is not yet widespread with only around one in ten reporting that clean company-owned energy accounts for more than 5% of their  total energy production.

On the renewables contribution to energy generation, Warren comments: “While company-owned generation clean energy is low, 68% of respondents purchase some amount of electricity generated from renewable sources. However only 39% of all respondents would be willing to pay a premium for renewables, highlighting the importance of achieving grid parity and developing innovative project financing models.”

Warren adds: “The main barriers to self-generation and renewables adoption are mainly related to risk and financial return. This suggests that adoption could come even faster with financing innovations and increasing cost-competitiveness of renewables.  Only those businesses with a comprehensive and diverse energy strategy will be able to create and maintain competitive advantage in the resource-constrained world of today.”


Download the latest Country Attractiveness Indices (CAI) report 2.6Mb, May 2012