India up, UK down, in EY renewable investor index

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India and the UK are respectively the highest profile winners and losers in the latest ranking of countries’ appeal to renewable energy investors published by consultancy Ernst & Young Global.

EY’s quarterly ‘Renewable Energy Investment Attractiveness Index’ reveals an unchanged top four from the last quarter – China at number one, followed by the US, Germany and Japan.

The biggest churn in this quarter’s index comes in the next batch of countries, with India climbing from sixth to fifth place at the expense of Canada, and France swapping eighth for seventh place with the UK.

EY ascribed India and France’s climb up the ranking, and the UK’s slippage, to policy-related factors.

On India, EY said its progress was a result of “significant policy, project and investment activity at both a national and state level”. Driven by the new national government’s 100GW solar pipeline, India is “creating a solid project pipeline and accelerating demand for a domestic supply chain”, the report said.

In an interview in the report, India’s energy minister, Piyush Goyal, said it was his country’s ambition to become the world’s most attractive renewable energy market by 2019.

“We have a clear and achievable plan, and very practical ideas that we are implementing on the ground,” Goyal said.

Meanwhile, France’s ascent up the index was mainly a consequence of its new energy transition bill, which sets a 32% renewable energy for 2030. The tendering of 400MW of plus-250kW at the end of 2014 and the news that developers have broken ground on what will be Europe’s largest PV power plant at 300MW also helped France’s cause, EY said.

The UK saw its position on the index slide because of concerns over the bedding in of its new competitive ‘contracts for difference’ regime for renewables and the likely policy hiatus caused by the forthcoming general election.

Ben Warren, energy corporate finance leader at EY said: “The UK’s CfD regime should, on paper at least, deliver the lowest possible cost of energy to the consumer. However, the CfD regime as it stands does raise some questions. The very slow passage of market reform and the late introduction of the CfD regime has made it very difficult for developers to sanction investment in new projects.

“The upcoming election means that we can expect an effective moratorium on energy policy. While it is encouraging that politicians are using this policy ‘down-time’ to issue cross-party pledges on climate change, there is little or no policy behind the rhetoric to convert this into concrete commitments. As a result, the role of renewable energy in the UK’s long-term energy strategy remains unknown at a time when it has become affordable, quick to deploy and can deliver real  jobs for the UK’s economy.”

Egypt found its way on to the index for the first time in two years. This was a consequence of the country having revived stalled plans for a 20% renewables target by 2020 and launching a tender in November for 2.3GW of solar and 2GW of wind power.

“The clarity and speed of the process has been encouraging, with around 100 companies qualifying as approved bidders in January 2015 and solar more than 50% oversubscribed,” said EY.

Looking ahead, Warren said one trend in renewable energy’s favour was the low interest rates in mature capital markets, that was forcing investors to look at new sectors.

“The global renewable energy industry – and with it energy consumers across the globe – can continue to be a major beneficiary of this trend as long as governments give investors consistency in policy and regulation over the longer-term. Greater collaboration between the public and private sector to ensure market reform measures are fit for purpose will also likely become an important trend. Markets that adopt these best practices will reap the rewards,” Warren concluded.

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