Energy Finance Report

Mid-Atlantic: Distributed Energy Opportunities

Posted by Joshua L. Sturtevant on 11/3/15 11:58 AM

Solar panels at a roof with sun flowersThe Mid-Atlantic region (Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and the District of Columbia) is currently at the forefront of discussions regarding the next generation of distributed electricity markets. Notable developments pushing the region into the spotlight recently include M&A activity, creativity on the part of public service commissions, local innovations in PACE finance, and increasing flexibility on the part of local utilities.

Programs and developments of particular note include:

- Net metering and renewable portfolio standards in Maryland

- PACE financing in Montgomery County, Maryland

- Discussions around undertaking a REV-like proceeding in Maryland

- Interconnection standardization in D.C.

- Microgrid studies being undertaken in D.C.

- Potential third-party bidding for large-scale solar in Virginia

- Renewable portfolio standards and net metering in Delaware

- Community solar innovations and discussions throughout the region

Please join SEIA and Sullivan & Worcester’s Energy Finance team on November 5th live in SEIA’s new offices, or by dial-in, as we host a roundtable discussion on developments in the region and the unique business opportunities they could present. After Rhone Resch’s introductory remarks, Elias Hinckley will moderate a panel comprised of industry experts with unique opinions, including Maryland PSC Commissioner Anne Hoskins, Dana Sleeper of MDV-SEIA, Anmol Vanamali of the DC Sustainable Energy Utility, Bracken Hendricks of Urban Ingenuity and Rick Moore of Washington Gas. Interested parties can register here.

Topics: Water Energy Nexus, Utilities, Water, Carbon Emissions, Energy Security, Thermal Generation, Energy Policy, M&A, Structured Transactions & Tax, Energy Storage, Energy Efficiency, Power Generation, Microgrid, Energy Finance, Distributed Energy, Energy Management, Solar Energy, Renewable Energy, Wind, Oil & Gas

The IMF Just Destroyed the Best Argument Against Clean Energy

Posted by Elias Hinckley on 5/21/15 9:03 AM

IMF.jpgFor more than a decade, fossil fuel supporters have insisted that new clean energy technologies like wind and solar are far “too expensive” to replace our traditional fossil fuel dominated energy industries. A recent report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has put a price on the direct and indirect subsidies that support fossil fuels as a counter argument to the renewables are “too expensive” message.

The numbers are staggering. The expected subsidy for fossil fuels during 2015 is projected to be $5.3 TRILLION – for one year! This means that approximately 6.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) will be dedicated in 2015 to just subsidizing our use of fossil fuels. Or as The Guardian pointed out in its summary of the IMF report, taxpayers are paying $10 MILLION per minute globally in subsidies for fossil fuels.

The idea that fossil fuels benefit from both direct and indirect subsidies has been around for years, but analysis has generally been done in pieces (some of it done very well – Nancy Pfund and Ben Healy at DBL Investors published an excellent analysis of direct subsidies in the U.S. a couple years back) or without complete data robust enough to stand up to critique. The IMF report looks at direct incentives, local pollution and public health effects, climate changes, and a host of other costs to arrive at its projected subsidy number.

IMF’s numbers are already being attacked. UK climate economist Nicholas Stern questioned the report for vastly underpricing the cost of climate change, and Brad Plummer at Vox outlined some of the odd items that arguably shouldn’t have been included in the calculation. Regardless of whether the IMF report gets to exactly the right number, the report provides a very credible starting point to argue over the right value to place on fossil fuel subsidies, and will be a baseline to begin rethinking the right pace for our global transition to clean energy.

According to the report, the largest subsidy will be for coal, largely because of the enormously underpriced effects of emissions and other environmental costs on public health and local resources – although the global climate impact is very significant as well. A real world demonstration of these costs can be seen in China right now with its massive build-out of coal generation rapidly coming to a close and the nation making a hard pivot towards clean energy in the face of deteriorating air quality and spiraling health costs from pollution.

The vast portion of the remaining fossil fuel subsidies will be to support petroleum. More petroleum subsidies will be in the form of direct supports, especially among oil producing countries, but the indirect costs were again significant (and curiously the report seems to leave out military costs dedicated to maintaining regular supply of crude to global markets, which have been long identified as a very significant subsidy).

Governments around the globe are struggling with the practical and economic realities of an accelerating energy transition away from fossil fuels, as well as the incredibly challenging politics surrounding these markets. The presence of a well respected financial institution, like the IMF, measuring the enormously ignored, but very real, costs of fossil fuel use will be important in shaping these discussions.

This report alone won’t end the constant claims that clean energy is “too expensive.” There have been remarkable declines in the cost of wind and solar power over the past decade. Add the breakthroughs in storage, electrification of vehicles, and promises of economically competitive new nuclear technologies (which will accelerate when investors have a clear and accurate price target for these alternatives) and the pace of global change could be revolutionary.

By putting hard data on the real price of the energy status quo (a lesson being lived in real time by Chinese authorities facing massive new costs from its overzealous coal fleet expansion), the report allows us to seriously consider the economic reality of the currently distorted and inaccurate marketplace. A better baseline, even a remotely accurate one, combined with the economic reality that clean energy has become stunningly more economic over the past decade, should re-write the fundamentals of the discussion about our energy future.

 

Topics: Carbon Emissions, Thermal Generation, Energy Policy, Energy Finance, Renewable Energy

Grid Wars: The Battle for Distributed Electricity

Posted by Jim Wrathall on 12/2/14 6:53 AM

Co-author Van Hilderbrand

As technology improvements and market demand drive adoption of distributed energy, utilities and fossil fuel interests are increasing levels of opposition in state legislative and regulatory proceedings. In an article recently published in Renewable Energy World and North American Clean Energy Magazine, we explored the role that business energy consumers and advanced energy businesses should play in supporting adoption of distributed energy.

The U.S. is poised to invest trillions of dollars of capital over the next few decades in energy generation and transmission. The question becomes: How do we, as a nation, want to invest this capital? Should it be on patching an old, central power plant model (think mainframe computers), or instead on a modern, distributed electricity system that supports entire new industries (think smart phones, the Internet of Things, and the Cloud)?

In many states, utilities and fossil fuel lobbyists are arguing that distributed generation sources should pay increased fixed costs, or that incentives such as renewable portfolio standards should be curtailed. As discussed in our article, it is vital that businesses with a stake in distributed energy make the case supporting the substantial benefits of distributed energy that should also be fully considered in these debates – including reduced costs, job creation, and improved grid reliability and security.

For more, please see the links below:

If you have questions regarding distributed energy resources policy matters or transactions, please contact any of the members of S&W’s Energy Finance practice.

Topics: Carbon Emissions, Thermal Generation, Energy Policy, Power Generation, Energy Finance, Distributed Energy, Solar Energy, Renewable Energy, Wind

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