Private investment, public gain: Green investment after lockdown

EIC discusses the Northvolt gigafactory, and how private funding is now flooding into green investment and sustainability projects.

Recharging capital

It began with grassroots environmentalism, then government mandate and finally, major financial institutions have started supporting a green future in earnest. Support in the form of loans and bonds for sustainable economic development and innovation, specifically solar storage options.

One such investment occurred last Thursday as the European Investment Bank (EIB) issued a €350 million loan to Northvolt for its lithium battery plant.

The site is based in Northern Sweden, and is intended to produce the most environmentally-friendly battery storage packs to date. Using 100% renewable energy and locally-sourced materials, it will soften characteristically high environmental cost of the Lithium-ion batteries it produces.

The cells will be used mainly in cars, which are responsible for 12% of the EU’s current carbon footprint.

Northvolt has already secured a €2bn supply contract with BMW and Volkswagen is interested in collaborating on a similar factory in Germany. The latter of these two is no surprise after VW unveiled plans to convert its Emden production plant to electric vehicle production.

Lofty ambitions

The gigafactory will have an initial production capacity of 16 GWh per year and be the first of its kind.

Both the investor and supplier share similarly ambitious intentions moving forward as well. Northvolt plans to scale capacity to 40GWh annually while, back in May, EIB stated its intention to increase green investment financing to over €1bn by the end of the year.

China still dominates the solar battery market of course, producing more than five times that amount in 2019 alone. However Northvolt and EIB have just set an important precedent and other banks are now joining the green investment fray.

“I believe that EIB financing support for Northvolt has been a textbook example of how our financial and technical due diligence can help crowd in private investors to visionary projects,”

-Andrew McDowell, VP EIB

The COVID-19 lockdown has wrought chaos in several energy markets, most notably West Texas Intermediate – which went negative for the first time in April.

Projections show global growth shrinking to -3% after such dramatic losses in this market, as well as many others. Fortunately, the immediate crisis of COVID-19 has not blinkered business and political leaders to the looming threat of climate change.

Despite these losses, April saw a 272% increase of ESG (environmental, social, governance) bonds compared to April last year.

Green investment rush

Finally, investment in green infrastructure has become vogue among Europe’s financiers and firms should take notice. Last week Sadiq Khan promised £1.5bn to upgrade London’s water and gas networks and prepare for more electric vehicle use.

 

Beyond our shores, Danish investment bank, Saxo, is already making predictions about renewable technology taking over the global market.

“Governments will increase investments and subsidies for ‘green’ industries, starting a new mega trend in equity markets… We believe that these green stocks could, over time, become some of the world’s most valuable companies”

­– Peter Garnry, Saxo Bank Head of Equity Strategy

Renewable technology rewards boldness and expediency with huge ROI over time. However the endorsement of institutions like BlackRock and EIB helps reduce risk profiles, making it more attractive to investors.

EIC have championed firms renewable interests for over 40 years, buying and managing approximately 12TWh of energy each year.

The EIC sustainability offering provides carbon compliance, utility management and procurement advice. Combining this expertise under one banner, you and your investors will have all your bases covered when outfitting your firm for a low carbon future.

 

 

 

Success is negative: Carbon negative office spaces

EIC explores the carbon-negative office spaces that are emerging, their role in the green recovery and the technology that make them possible.

Favour the bold

The path to net zero is fraught with obstacles and among these is the carbon intensive nature of the mainstream construction sector. Materials like concrete are extremely resource intensive to produce.

While often offset on a citywide scale, some firms are beginning to focus on the buildings themselves and work sustainability into their initial designs.

Blazing the smoke-free trail are Norwegian architects Snøhetta, who will design exclusively carbon-neutral buildings over the next decade.

The aim is then that from 2030 onwards, Snøhetta will focus on creating carbon-negative designs.

Carbon negative structures either generate more energy than they consume, or sequester more carbon than they produce. The figure includes expenses from initial  construction and materials, as well as operation and decommissioning.

Elusive costs like these are problematic, with 85% of building emissions generated by materials and construction, before the structure is ever used.

“For the next 10 years, we have the ambition of having projects on the table that will become CO2 negative in the cradle-to-cradle definition… This means we have to understand the embodied energies and all the materials used.”

-Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Thorsen

Balancing the books

Since less intensive materials suited to large scale construction are not yet widely available, balancing through generation will be key.  Solar is central to Snøhettas plans, with structures taking about 60 years to hit carbon negative with embedded generation. The architect recently completed its Powerhouse Brattørkaia project, which boasts an identical timeline for net negative. The Powerhouse also sports a cutting edge ‘wedge’ shape designed to maximise exposure to the sun’s rays.

While this may seem like a life sentence for business leaders, it is refreshing that groups like Snøhetta are beginning to think in terms of multi-generational gains.

Bywater Properties are leading a similar development project aimed to create the lowest-carbon workplace in London. The office, named ‘Paradise’ for the road it occupies: Old Paradise Street. Supermarket, Iceland has already secured the majority of this space, planting a green flag for the brand in the minds of its customers.

My generation

It is no secret that the attraction of short-term gains have significantly contributed to the environmental challenges we now face.

However, vision extending beyond the next board meeting can help transform the UK and global economy to reach net zero. Carbon negative buildings are a part of that vision.

Unfortunately, that can feel exclusionary to firms that have already established their sites and do not have the luxury of completely retrofitting them.

The complex, modular nature of structures does mean that while carbon negative may not be feasible, ‘carbon-light’ might be possible.

Intelligent building control is one of the most effective ways to improve your carbon profile. Primarily because it streamlines the carbon-producing elements of a building, mainly utility consumption, and shrinks carbon footprint as a result.

A holistic ally in carbon reduction is the addition of green spaces to working environments, since these also sequester carbon.

On-site generation further reduces your reliance on the grid and the subsequent sequestered carbon in meeting demand – particularly across long distances.

Other benefits include improved energy supply security, added leverage in procurement talks and a better carbon profile for crucial legislation.

EIC understands that intelligent building design and frugality around resource-use work in hand in glove. As such, EIC offers a comprehensive carbon service combining building management, intelligent procure and compliance acumen.

Marriage of these three pillars means unlocking the full potential of sites, and leveraging for the benefit of all. EIC’s full offering is on its services page.

 

 

 

 

Here comes the Sun

EIC explores the benefits and future of on-site solar generation for businesses, how COVID-19 has highlighted and bolstered the strengths of solar power and how EIC can help businesses engage with the technology.

The wild blue yonder

Lockdown, while effective, has been a source of ongoing financial and emotional strain for many in the UK and businesses are no exception. However, there have been a number of benefits to this economic slowing that perhaps are going overlooked.

Chiefly, air pollution, in proportion with industrial energy demand, has dropped significantly. Combined with the severe oversupply of Oil and faltering resilience of fossil fuels generally, this has given solar generation the opportunity to enjoy a moment in the sun. 

However, solar is not a recent arrival to the energy scene, existing theoretically since at least 1839 thanks to French scientist Edmund Bacquerel. Bacquerel’s work was groundbreaking because it was the first time that solid material with no moving parts had been used to convert sunlight directly into electrical energy.

A guiding light

Since 1839, we’ve come a long way and furthest perhaps in the last five years, during which time the costs of solar have halved while storage options have improved consistently with the introduction of graphene and vanadium technology.

The conditions of lockdown have demonstrated that renewable energy sources are likely to be the most resilient to the supply chain disruptions that a major crisis can create. 

In fact, EU solar generation jumped by 28% year-on-year, between March 28th and April 26th of this year compared to 2019, breaking generation records while doing so. 

Energy security is a basic necessity for the survival of any business and, as such, will be a subject of great scrutiny throughout lockdown and in its aftermath. Novel technologies like on-site generation will become more attractive, not only for their resilience but for the savings that their flexibility offers. 

The use of on-site photovoltaics can also improve a company’s carbon profile while providing a measure of protection against supply failure. 

EIC manages around 12TWH each year and with over 40 years industry experience, we are able to create bespoke energy solutions for your needs. We can help you engage with on-site generation, saving you as much as 20% on your energy usage or 40% when combined with on-site battery storage. Better still, in times of plenty, you’ll be able to sell excess energy back to the grid and further offset energy costs. 

Our solutions page contains full details of our on-site generation and storage offerings, as well as further information on the compliance service we provide that can be bolstered by such technology.

 

An update on Smart Export Guarantee

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published a response to their consultation on the future for small-scale low-carbon generation, which sought views on policy proposals for a Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).

The SEG will require suppliers with at least 150,000 domestic customers to provide a minimum of one tariff offer to small-scale low-carbon generators. Exporters of up to 5MW capacity of anaerobic digestion, hydro, micro-combined heat and power, onshore wind, and solar photovoltaics are eligible for payment.

It is the government’s opinion that small-scale low-carbon electricity generation should be supported by competitive, market-based solutions. To this effect, the government will not specify a minimum tariff rate in order to allow the market to develop. However, a supplier must provide payment greater than zero at all times of export.

The SEG is a replacement for the Feed-in Tariff (FiT), which closed to new generators in March 2019. The Feed-in Tariff scheme was originally introduced in April 2010 in order to incentivise the development of small-scale renewable generation from decentralised energy solutions. Generators were paid a fixed rate determined by the Government, which varied by technology and scale.

How will this impact you?

All suppliers that meet the SEG criteria will be required to offer at least one tariff by an expected date of 31 December 2019, providing small-scale generators with a choice of who they want to export to.

Currently, there are very few suppliers that offer tariffs of this nature. However, as the deadline approaches it can be expected that all larger suppliers will begin to offer their own options, allowing generators to choose the best tariff for themselves.

Stay informed with EIC insights

Our Market Intelligence team keep a close eye on the energy markets and industry updates. For the most timely updates you can find us on Twitter and LinkedIn Follow us today.

Visit our webpage to find out more about EIC Market Intelligence and how we keep our clients informed at a frequency to suit them.

Record Breaking Solar Generation

A week of clear skies and warm temperatures has seen the UK break its all-time record for solar PV generation twice in as many days.

National Grid reported a new all-time peak for solar generation on Monday 13 May at 9.47GW. This surpassed the previous record which had held for two years, when supply hit 9.38GW in May 2017.

 

 

This record was then broken again the following day, when output peaked at 9.55GW on Tuesday 14 May. On that day, at its peak, solar generation was producing 27% of UK electricity.

Peak solar generation has averaged 8.7GW since Saturday as temperatures climbed over the weekend and weather conditions turned significantly brighter. The previous week when conditions were far cloudier, generation peaked at less than 5GW on average.

 

Growth in Solar Capacity

The new record for solar generation has come despite minimal growth in installed solar capacity in recent years. Total installed solar capacity has risen by just 0.5GW since April 2017, following the closure of the Renewables Obligation subsidy scheme. Total capacity is currently 13GW, having grown nearly 10GW in the three years from 2014 to 2017.

 

Impact on Demand

Solar output has a narrower window of generation than other fuel sources. High levels of solar generation during daylight hours are more impactful on reducing system demand, both the overall daily peak and the afternoon low. Solar generation raises the volume of embedded electricity, in which homes and businesses are generating their own supply via solar panels. Embedded generation removes the demand for that electricity from the transmission network. The higher the availability of embedded generation the lower the system demand. This is why the transmission network sees a sizable reduction in consumption across the middle part of the day, when solar output is at its strongest.

During the record solar generation on Tuesday, demand on the transmission network saw a drop of more than 6GW from the early morning high. Consumption dropped to just 25GW before climbing again for the post-work peak.

 

 

Peak electricity demand on the network is at record lows and is forecast to fall even further as the summer season progresses. 2019 as a whole has seen peak consumption trend lower than previous years, reflecting the greater efficiencies and renewable availability on offer. In the last week of May, a half-term school holiday, electricity demand is forecast to peak at just 31GW, an all-time low.

 

 

A Benefit to All Customers

In addition to the environmental advantages of renewable generation, distributed solar provides many benefits to the grid and by extension to all electricity consumers. Reduced demand on the system improves grid security and the often onsite nature of solar generation leads to less losses in electricity.

The demand reductions caused by higher levels of distributed solar generation, mean that less fuel is being used to power the electricity network. As demand falls wholesale prices fall,  the less efficient gas plants are no longer required so overall cost of generation is lower. These dips in demand means that hourly prices for the early afternoon are now on at similar levels to the prices normally recorded in the middle of the night. As more solar reduces prices in the daylight hours the cumulative effect of all the additional generation is to bring prices lower.

The government is currently analysing feedback on the proposal for a Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), designed to replace the now-closed Feed-in Tariff. This scheme would legislate for suppliers to provide tariffs to pay small-scale low-carbon generators, such as solar panel owners, for the electricity they export to the grid. Some suppliers have already begun to offer tariffs, based on the same concept, to incentivise the export of solar power to the grid.

Government confirms closure of Feed-in Tariff

The Government has confirmed plans to remove the export tariff for solar power, which currently provides owners of PV panels revenue for excess energy that they generate. This will coincide with the closure of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme.

Though a large proportion of respondents to the governmental consultation disagreed with the plans, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has decided that both the Feed-in Tariff subsidy scheme and the export tariff will close to new participants after March next 2019.

 

What was the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme?

The Feed-in Tariff scheme was introduced in April 2010 in order to incentivise the development of small-scale renewable generation from decentralised energy solutions such as solar photovoltaics (PV), wind, hydro, anaerobic digestion, and micro Combined Heat and Power (CHP). Generators were paid a fixed rate determined by the Government, which varied by technology and scale.

Payments to the small-scale generators were made quarterly by FiT-licensed suppliers and recovered from all consumers. A levelisation process also took place every quarter, as not all suppliers were required to offer FiTs and their exposure to the scheme varied.

 

The Government response

The response from the Government argues that the closure of the FiT scheme represents their “desire to move towards fairer, cost reflective pricing and the continued drive to minimise support costs on consumers”, adding that the current scheme does not support the vision set out in either the Industrial Strategy or the Clean Growth Strategy.

The scheme will close in full to new applications from 31 March 2019, subject to the time-limited extensions and grace period.

The Government has decided to provide a 12-month grace period for “Renewals Obligation Order Feed-In Tariff (ROO-FiT) scale” (all hydro and anaerobic digestion, solar PV, and wind with a declared net capacity over 50kW) installations that apply for preliminary accreditation on or before the cut-off date, are accepted into the cap, and then suffer grid and/or radar delay beyond their control. This means they are unable to accredit during their preliminary accreditation validity period.

It’s also been decided that projects in oversubscribed deployments caps at the close of the scheme will not be eligible for either generation or export tariff payments under the scheme, and so Ofgem will not grant them preliminary or full accreditation.

 

How will this impact you?

The results of these closures will mean that anyone that adds solar generation from April 2019 will not be paid for any excess power that is exported to the grid. These changes will not affect the circa 800,000 homes that have already solar panels fitted since the Feed-in Tariff scheme launched in 2010.

The Government is reportedly preparing to announce a market-based replacement to the export tariff early in the New Year, which would see new rules on how suppliers could purchase the excess power.

However, there will likely be a gap between the closure of the Tariff and the implementation of any new plans, meaning any new solar generators will be affected during this time.

 

We can help you realise the benefits of decentralised energy

Solutions such as Solar, Battery Storage, and Combined Heat & Power (CHP) can be an integral part of your wider energy strategy, as well as generate additional revenue through lucrative Demand Side Response (DSR) schemes.

To find out how, visit our webpage, call us on 01527 511 757, or email info@eic.co.uk.