Financing a Clean Energy Economy

Financing a Clean Energy Economy – Opportunities and Risks for Businesses & Investors

Opportunities in a clean energy economy

*“The race for renewable energy has passed a turning point. The world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined…

The shift will continue to accelerate…” (BNEF) 1

* Costs for electricity from solar and wind are plummeting and are now lower in some markets than electricity from coal or natural gas and still dropping (NYT) 2

* Some U.S. utilities are choosing solar and wind, reasoning that fixed prices for renewables protect ratepayers from price hikes 3

* Worldwide, last year, $329 billion was invested in renewables 4

* “{M]ore than half the world’s annual investment in clean energy is coming from emerging markets instead of from wealthier nations..” 5

* Businesses can save substantial amounts of money by reducing energy use. 6

* “Green mutual funds, invested in companies with exceptional environmental credentials, now outperform ‘black’ funds – which invest in fossil fuels – by more than 14% over the period 2012 to 2014.” 7

*.”. a look at profits and losses….made clear,[that] companies and investors that shun sustainable, low-carbon assets stand to lose a lot of money” (UN Investor Summit) 8

Acknowledging risks in using fossil fuels and making changes

* “Budget experts are also starting to see rising costs on the federal balance sheet. …disaster relief…Vulnerability of nation’s roads, bridges and waterways due to rising sea levels and changing weather pattern….U.S. military installations & operations are also threatened…” (Budget committee hearing) 9

* Climate change will have, ‘specific, measurable impacts on our nation’s current assets and ongoing economic activity…By not acting to lower greenhouse gas emissions today, decision-makers put in place processes that increase overall risks tomorrow” 10

* The U.S. government subsidizes the use of fossil fuels four times more than it subsidizes clean energy (Tax committees) 11

* U.S subsidies for fossil fuel, if you include… environmental damage like local air pollution, health costs, and other externalities, is estimated for 2015 at $5.3 Trillion or about $1800/person/year (IMF) 12

* The International Energy Agency (IEA) recommends phasing out fossil fuels subsidies and increasing renewable subsidies. 13

* People who invest money for others – for pensions, countries, and institutions should assess and monitor the impacts of climate change on investments and invest in clean energy, (Mercer) 14

* “350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets have called on government leaders to provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge, as well as develop plans “to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.” (Ceres) 15

* “Let’s remove the barriers … that protect the monopolies and allow consumer choice and freedom” 16

* “solar energy is cheap, plentiful and offers a monopoly-busting solution to generating electricity “ 17 (Dooley)

Footnotes:

  1. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-14/fossil-fuels-just-lost-the-race-against-renewables
  2. http://nyti.ms/1MZGIke
  3. http://www.utilitydive.com/news/utility-scale-solar-booms-as-costs-drop-challenging-gas-on-price/406692/

4 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-14/renewables-drew-record-329-billion-in-year-oil-prices-crashed

  1. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-23/leapfrogging-to-solar-emerging-markets-outspend-rich-countries-for-the-first-time
  2. Improvements in energy efficiency earned 196% payback over 2 to 3 years for S&P500 companies reporting to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) https://www.cdp.net/CDPResults/3-percent-solution-report.pdf
  3. http://www.business-school.ed.ac.uk/about/news/2320   Also “the six major renewable investment funds yield between 5.5% and 7% – attractive returns in the current market. http://bit.ly/1mCJoNJ
  4. http://bit.ly/1mCJoNJ   Guardian article referring to Jan 2016 UN Investor Summit on Climate Risk with 500 global investors representing an estimated $22tn in assets

9.Budget Committee Hearing 2014 chaired by Sen Patty Murray

//www.budget.senate.gov/democratic/public/index.cfm/2014/7/the-costs-of-inaction-the-economic-and-budgetary-consequences-of-climate-change-opening-statement-of-chairman-murray

  1. Risky Business A Climate Change Assessment for the U.S. (co-chairs: Henry Paulson, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer) http://riskybusiness.org/report/overview/executive-summary
  2. The Joint Committee on Taxation $30bn for oil, coal and gas related . $6.2 bn for efficiency and clean energy related. Estimates Fed Tax Expenditures 2012-2017

https://www.jct.gov/publications.html?func=startdown&id=4503

  1. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2015/NEW070215A.htm
  2. https://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/WEO2015SUM.pdf
  3. http://www.mercer.com/insights/focus/invest-in-climate-change-study-2015.html

Statement by 350 institutional investors handling $24Trillion in funds

  1. http://www.ceres.org/press/press-releases/world2019s-leading-institutional-investors-managing-24-trillion-call-for-carbon-pricing-ambitious-global-climate-deal
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/06/debbie-dooley-tea-party-solar-energy-florida-environment
  3. Debbie Dooley, co-founder of tea party and green tea party https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/debbie-dooley-changing-how-conservatives-think-about-clean-energy
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Living building home

Check out this gorgeous Oregon ‘living building’ home. Huge windows look out on green meadows and forests, but its 3500 square feet of indoor space is expected to use only $50 a year in energy bills.  It uses solar panels, of course, but also has super insulation, heat-recovery ventilation, a roof overhang and window shades to control heating and cooling.  Eric Lemelson consulted with Green Hammer and worked with construction company, Hammer and Hand to create his home.

http://on.wsj.com/18IbY2p

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Smart Businesses Tackle Climate Change

Climate Declaration 800 px

The CEOs of 33 US companies have signed a Climate Declaration calling on America to take the lead in combating climate change.  They say the same policies that will help the climate are also smart business practices, – using less electricity, choosing clean energy technology and creating new export technologies.  They recommend a coordinated effort to stabilize the climate as also the way to maximize opportunities and remain a superpower in a competitive world.

Representing employment of half a million citizens and  $450billion/year in revenue, the corporate group emphasizes that the same policies that combat climate change are also smart business practices.

A recent study by PEW backs up the claim that there huge financial potential in green energy development. It found that clean energy investment has increased by 600% from 2004 to 2011. They project that installation of renewable energy over the next six years will result in additional revenue of $1.9 trillion.

http://www.ceres.org/bicep/climate-declaration

http://bit.ly/12gUVEY

 

Solar Competition in a Darwinian Marketplace

Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy, a developer of large utility solar projects was asked by Russell Gold, energy reporter with the WSJ about bankruptcies among solar energy companies.

This was his response.

“Nobody wants to see that kind of trouble, we think about jobs lost, it’s extremely painful. However, you have to put it in context. This is fundamentally a very exciting transformation This is an industry that in the last 10 years has taken the cost of solar panels from $5 per watt to around $.50 per watt.  As result of this transformation, it has moved solar power from one of the most expensive sources of electricity to one of the second or third least expensive sources of electricity.

Inevitably, a part of that process is going to be the creation of a very Darwinian, challenging environment, in which those who cannot keep up with the cost structure necessary to stay competitive are going to get restructured, fall by the wayside, get reabsorbed.

We have to put this event in that context.  There are numbers of solar manufacturers demonstrating they do have cost structures that work in today’s prices. So that means that this industry can continue to deliver solar electricity at increasingly competitive costs.”

http://on.wsj.com/16NdWOg

Spin Cells for Solar Power

Spin Cells for Solar Power

Washington State Clean Energy Industry

Where can you find the most new jobs in technology? According to Forbes, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area took first place last year in growth in technology jobs, including software, internet publishing, science, engineering and math.  The growth is not just in large corporations, but also in new, innovative start-ups. Appropriately Washington, with its natural beauty, is a leader in advancements in green technology.  

McKinstry is a leader in consulting and construction for energy efficient buildings, both public and private projects, employing over 1600 people. Silicon Energy in Marysville makes solar panels with a durable glass-on-glass design. From Liberty Lake come storage batteries and control systems by Demand Energy Networks. Larger institutions participate also; Boeing’s new 787 uses 20% less fuel, and it is working to develop aviation fuel from algae.

Research helps prime the pump. At the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, researchers are working on batteries for vehicles and for grid-scale storage, bio-based fuel alternatives and a range of energy saving technologies.

 

 

Business of Clean Technology

Government support for clean technology was the topic of a meeting of the Renewable Energy Meetup on January 16th in Seattle.

Burt Hamner, who invited the participants, is an example of innovative, entrepreneurial success. He founded Hydrovolts in 2007, which now manufactures small electric generators for use in wastewater treatment plants and irrigation canals, with a local staff of nine.  In Washington last year, 83,676   people worked in clean technology. The state is a leader in advancements in green technology, including building efficiency, electrical storage, solar panel manufacture, and pollution reduction.

Washington State government, with a policy of promoting both sustainability and new jobs for the growing population, provides programs to help companies develop new industry, relocate to Washington, and export products. Innovate Washington is a public/private organization that helps entrepreneurs strategize, find funding, and take new products to market.

Tim Stearns, with the State Department of Commence Energy Office, pointed out that one barrier to growth in the solar market is the many different requirements for installation in the states’ 285 cities and 62 utilities.  He is working with the Evergreen State Solar Partnership to streamline and reduce the expense of permitting, zoning and utility connection processes for solar technology.

Tim pointed out that sustainability is advancing from a variety of directions, for example a new composting program University of Washington, increasing off-grid capability at Fort Lewis, and carbon pricing in Oregon.

The Seattle City Office of Economic Development and Office of Sustainability help with financing projects and with money saving reductions in carbon emissions.

King County is using energy efficient technology to save money for taxpayers with innovative resource recovery programs such as harnessing methane, and auditing energy use to select the most efficient equipment and processes. At the West Point wastewater plant, they will be recovering waste heat and also methane to run the facility, according to Jessie Israel who works with the county’s wastewater program. In the future, she expects that we will have technology allowing households to use the heat that now leaves our homes in sewer pipes to lower heating bills.