If money makes the world spin round, investment is the new name of the solar game

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

The risk averse and understandably conservative world of investment has not always been easy to cajole into injecting cash where it is often most desperately needed. Preconceptions of unchartered technologies, turbulent policies and unattractive finance mechanisms have multiplied into a concerning drain of funds.

Global renewables investment slid 12% last year (according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance). Although in context of a 20% overall market growth, lightning fast declines in PV prices and tumultuous policies in Europe and the US rocking steady handed investors, solar individually saw a pronounced and dramatic decrease in investment last year, from US$142.9 billion to US$114.7 billion

Europe plummeted a spectacular 41% from US$97.8 billion in 2012, to US$57.8 billion in 2013; US investment dwindled 8.4% from US$53 billion, to $48.4 billion; China fell 3.8% from US$63.8 billion in 2012, to US$61.3 billion last year.

Subsequently, attracting investment was the theme echoing across a sea of comfortably seated investors, bankers, business and financial leaders, in the forum of Clean Tech 2014. The annual event, this year titled ‘Meet Asia. Meet renewable energy’s future’, was hosted by asset management form, ThomasLloyd and the Republic of the Philippines in Frankfurt, 24 January.

The event went far beyond polite obligation; a carousel of informed, emotive and passionate speakers cherry picked from influential economists, charismatic politicians and noteworthy academics appeared on a grand stage to convince the gathered audience to invest in renewables in Asia – but more than anything, to take part in investing in the not-too-distant future.

Asia was picked due to its immense economic power, human capital and natural renewables resources, but primarily because Asia is the geographical location of choice for renewables’ investment of the future. The continent is home to the Philippines, catastrophically struck by super-typhoon Haiyan last year, causing 6,000 deaths and damage estimated at US$12.9 billion. According to one speaker, Senator Loren Legarda, this is despite being acclaimed by Geneva as having the best renewable energy laws in the world and being responsible for a measly 0.31% of global greenhouse emissions.

To put that in perspective, the Philippines has a population of 96 million people, the UK has just under two thirds of that with a population of 63 million (according to the World Bank). Despite having almost a population a third smaller than the Philippines, the UK accounts for 2% of global emissions – that’s 6.54 times more harmful green house gas emissions than the Philippines, and the UK has no such internationally noted environmental laws. Senator Legarda was far from jovial her assertion that it is time for developed countries to “put their money where their mouth is” and contribute to investing in solar energy, other renewables, energy efficiency and climate change-exacerbated disaster prevention, on a planet shared with the inhabitants it is responsible for harming.

Justin Yifu Lin, former chief economist and vice president of the World Bank, also highlighted Asia’s preferential placement for renewables investment in his speech. The internationally acclaimed economist took to the podium to champion China’s sprinting economy, stating it has been growing at 9.8% between 1979 and 2012, pessimistically predicting an 8% growth rate for the next 20 years – making China the largest economy in the world by 2030.

Lin is hoping China can pull the rest of Asia into united economic power; however, China is also infamous for its deadly smog. “Pollution and global warming are a real challenge for sustainability,” warned Lin.

Meanwhile, Peter Guthrie, professor of sustainable development at the University of Cambridge, began his speech quoting Thomas Jefferson to convey the sentiment of taking action to invest in sustainable and renewable energy: “No generation should leave debts for future generations.”

Guthrie asked the audience to rethink current models of finance, energy distribution and energy access. The professor challenged the current notion of “constant energy as a human right”.

Guthrie contested the notion of “uninterrupted energy” as detrimental, arguing that “interrupted supply is better than zero”, drawing the dots between the risk of investing in finite fossils fuels which will, regardless of political backing or investment, eventually reach zero. “When resources are scarce we need to revaluate and make sure the [financial] risk is understood,” he said.

The eventual exhaustion of fossil fuels was compared to abundant, albeit currently disruptive, renewable energy. “We have to rethink how energy is distributed and used,” Guthrie said. Limitations to using renewables were a consequence of current outdated models of investment, Guthrie said, pointing out that the lack of essential technology advances was a direct symptom of financial malnourishment. “PV is constantly on the threshold of a breakthrough”, but just requires the investment; with the necessary investment, Guthrie said renewable energy had the potential “not just replace fossil fuels and lower carbon, but improve energy security, allow local generation and empower communities, opening up on and off grid opportunities, mini and smart grids.”

The Cambridge academic also called for a rethinking of the term climate change, saying the phrase should be redefined as “climate instability”; such a change of emphasis would help investors understand the “huge growth potential” and not regard it as a risky venture.

On investment Guthrie said: “Either the private sector needs confidence, security and a clear policy environment, or the government takes the risk.”

The pathways to achieve this realignment of thought and investor confidence were sparked by Filipino senator Egardo Angara who coined the term “economic renaissance”.

The sentiment was reinforced magnanimously by the highlight of the event, the former president of the United States and founder of the Clinton Foundation, Bill Clinton appeared via satellite link from Florida to call for international “cooperation, not conflict”.

Captivating the attention of hundreds of attendees, Clinton addressed humanity’s “final challenge”; with climate change, he said, “we cannot escape each other or the planet on which we all live”.

Clinton pointed to “political and economic inclusion and more understanding” as the way forward for financing renewables on a global scale to provide for an estimated seven billion inhabitants. To a hall filled with economical opportunities, Clinton stated there is “too much inequality between countries, capital and education, this limits the growth potential of the world, we need shared prosperity.”

“We cannot burn up the planet,” he said.

Clinton identified the “biggest challenge” to the renewable energy sector as finance – the “upfront cost” of deploying renewable energy. “The economic case for renewable energy is not made strongly enough,” he said.

Looking to inspire and motivate investors, Clinton highlighted how crucial investors could be: “You could be right in the heart of what could prove to be not just the most important economic movement, but also a profoundly important political, social and public health movement; we should be moving into the most peaceful prosperous and fascinating time in human history.”

Bill Clinton: The former US president led calls for a new form of investment in clean energy.
Cambridge University's Peter Guthrie: Current models of energy finance need to be rethought. Image: ThomasLloyd.
19 August 2021
The utility-scale PV market is poised for exponential growth and yet the industry still has many fundamental opportunities to improve on standards and best practice. Tracker shade loss has been one of those topics that deserve more attention, but has been typically handled by derate factors rather than trying to accurately forecast the loss over the life of the system. Join Nextracker’s subject matter experts, Aron Dobos and Neelesh Umachandran, and Rounak Kharait, director of solar energy assessments at DNV, for a webinar about why shade modeling matters and recommendations on what the solar industry should do about it.
25 August 2021
Energy Next is a new industry exhibition focusing on the latest renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, which will be held for the first time in 2021 in Sydney, Australia alongside the Clean Energy Council’s Australian Clean Energy Summit, the peak gathering of leaders driving Australia's energy transformation. Organised by the same people behind Australia’s largest clean energy event, All-Energy Australia, Energy Next will give visitors two days of access to key suppliers in the industry, free-to-attend professional development and industry workshops, and networking opportunities to better understand clean energy issues and solutions and learn about the latest developments in this transformational, dynamic sector.
25 August 2021
The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste takes place in Fortaleza, Brazil. It addresses leading local and international experts on solar power and renewable energy in the region. The Summit’s mission is to provide in-depth education, enable high-quality networking opportunities, expand the use of PV technologies at regional and national level and strengthen the local PV industry. The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste is organized by Intersolar South America - Latin America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry: Solar Promotion International GmbH, Pforzheim, Freiburg Management and Marketing International GmbH (FMMI) and Aranda Eventos & Congressos Ltda, São Paulo as co-organizer.
25 August 2021
Join us to hear directly from the CTOs and heads-of-research from the top-20 cell/wafer producers to the PV industry today. The event will focus on predicting the key metrics underpinning the next big shift to n-type with answers to the key questions: When will the transition to n-type happen? Which companies will be first to 10 GW capacity and production? Who will be the key equipment suppliers for the new production lines? Which n-type process flow/architecture will emerge as the front-runner? What will polysilicon purity and wafer thickness levels look like for optimized n-type manufacturing? What will the upstream poly/wafer supply-chain look like in 5 years from now?
26 August 2021
In this webinar, JA Solar will present its product portfolio based on the latest technologies to improve your PV projects, ensuring maximum reliability and performance. During the webinar we will receive insight from JA Solar about its solar technology roadmap and how the manufacturer is providing customers with innovative solutions to suit their needs, while we will also analyse how to determine the best product solution for each solar project.
6 September 2021
The 38th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition will be held online from 6 - 10 September 2021, allowing PV experts from all around the globe to participate with just one click! The EU PVSEC is the world's leading forum for PV Research and Development and the biggest Conference on PV Solar Energy worldwide. That is why PV experts from all around the globe are keen on gathering together each year to be part of this specialist’s event, to present and discuss the latest developments in Photovoltaics, to network and to conduct business.

Read Next

July 29, 2021
Tracker and racking provider Arctech has delivered SkySmart II tracking system to a 575MW agriculture-sharing solar project located in Nangong City, Hebei Province, China.
July 29, 2021
Unigreen Energy, owned by Hevel majority shareholder Ream Management LLC, has broken ground on a wafer and cell manufacturing plant that will produce 1.3GW of silicon n-type monocrystalline ingots and wafers as well as 1GW of heterojunction technology (HJT) solar cells.
July 29, 2021
Meyer Burger has revealed plans to launch a solar roof tile product, expanding its rooftop solar product range.
July 29, 2021
US residential solar installer SunPower has partnered with EV charging provider Wallbox to add EV charging technologies to its portfolio.
July 29, 2021
US residential solar installer Sunnova said it was investing in its end-to-end solar services to cater for customers demanding more from their rooftop installations.
July 29, 2021
The US Senate has passed a new bipartisan infrastructure bill after weeks of protracted discussions, establishing US$550 billion in new infrastructure funding as part of an investment described as “once-in-a-generation”.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
August 19, 2021
At 9am (PT) | 6pm (CEST)
Solar Media Events
August 25, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
BRISTOL, UK