Author Archives: Peter Sopher

Clean Energy Industry is Not Yet Mature – and that’s a Good Thing

graph-163509_640Last year, global investment in clean, renewable sources of energy grew by a better-than-expected 16 percent to $310 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Industry watchers applauded the strong showing, but the numbers imply more than just robust growth. A careful analysis leads us to two additional illuminating conclusions about the industry’s current level of development and its future.

 

  1. The clean energy industry is in a development phase

In 2013, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 8.5 percent, with investment comprising 47 percent of GDP. By contrast, GDP in the United States expanded 1.9 percent, with investment comprising 16.8 percent. As a developing country, China’s growth rate is significantly higher, and a telling characteristic for developing countries is that investment makes up a relatively large percentage of GDP.

This pattern doesn’t just hold true for countries; we also see a similar dynamic when looking at industries. According to BNEF, the oil & gas (O&G) industry spent $913 billion on capital expenditures, or capex, last year, while the market capitalization, or market cap, for the top ten companies in the NYSE Arca Oil & Gas Index stood at $1.63 trillion. By contrast, the market cap for the top ten companies in the Wilder Hill New Energy Global Index was much smaller at $164 billion. The Wilder Hill New Energy Global Index comprises 107 companies from around the world that cover a broad spectrum of clean energy technologies. Read More »

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Clean Energy is Just Smart Business for Leaders like Apple, Google

apple-google againApple and Google have changed our lives forever, both because of their technological innovations and sheer size as global corporations. Now, they’re aiming to reshape the energy landscape.

This month, Apple announced plans to spend nearly $2 billion on European data centers set to run entirely on renewable energy, and invested $848 million to secure power from 130MW of First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Google also agreed to replace 370 wind turbines installed in the 1980s with 24 new, more efficient and bird-friendly turbines at the Altamont Pass in the San Francisco Bay Area. Moreover, there has been recent speculation Apple may be working on an electric vehicle to challenge Tesla’s dominance in that market.

These developments are impressive on their own, but they are also part of a new trend among major corporations – whose primary focus is not energy generation – proactively pursuing clean energy projects. So, why are they doing this?

For corporations whose businesses do not rely on fossil fuels, aligning themselves with clean power is proving a prudent move both financially and for public relations. Read More »

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5 Reasons the Future of Clean Energy Investing Looks Stronger than Ever

investment LendingMemoWhy invest? To make money.

People don’t invest in an industry to save the world or promote a cause; they invest because they believe the amount they put in will ultimately be returned to them as a much greater sum.

You’ve got to spend money to make money and, when it comes to clean energy, there is a lot of money to be made. Here are five reasons clean energy investment will continue its positive performance in 2015 and beyond.

1. Clean energy investment has been – and continues to be – on the rise

Recent buzz around clean energy investment has centered on a new Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report detailing the global clean energy industry’s strong 2014 investment results, results that even “beat expectations”.  While 2004-2014 saw an extended recession and high unemployment for the global economy, clean energy investment grew five-fold during those 10 years, up from $60.2 billion in 2004 to an impressive $310 billion this past year, according to BNEF. Read More »

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Germany’s Energiewende Requires Sophisticated Governance, Political Stamina

"Berlin reichstag CP" by Cezary Piwowarski - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_reichstag_CP.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Berlin_reichstag_CP.jpgConceptualizing a policy as broad and ambitious as Energiewende – Germany’s goal to transition nearly 100 percent of its electricity supply to renewable energy by 2050 – is one thing. Implementing it is another thing entirely.

For this, ‘good governance’ is required – or as the Hertie School defines it: “an effective, efficient, and reliable set of legitimate institutions and actors engaged in a process of dealing with a matter of public concern.”

Energiewende’s implementation presents significant governance challenges. It is a public matter that requires cooperation and coordination from various public and private actors, as well as top-down decision-making. It also comprises diverse political levels and jurisdictions – global, European, federal, state, and municipal – as well as interest groups, cooperatives, alliances, banks, and individuals.

While Energiewende is very much a German policy designed for a German political context, there are still lessons the U.S. (and any country considering an energy transition for that matter) can learn from the challenges Germany has faced in developing a governance strategy to go where no one has gone before: overhauling the modern electricity system as we know it to make the German power grid more clean, efficient, resilient, and dynamic. Read More »

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Two Political Lessons from Germany’s Energiewende

Check mateAs the recent midterm elections have thrust American politics to the media’s forefront, battles for political power are fresh in our minds. While Democrats and Republicans are not the contestants in governments outside of the U.S., struggle for power among groups whose ideals clash are the bedrock of political systems everywhere, including Germany, where politics play a major role in shaping the country’s energy transition.

Political actors in countries with coordinated market economies, such as Germany, prefer dialogues, strategic concessions, and trade-offs that give rise to policy decisions unanimous among main stakeholder groups. However, for Energiewende – Germany’s aggressive plan to transition to nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 – unanimity is constrained. That’s because two interest groups, the Conventional Energy Coalition (CEC) and the Sustainable Energy Coalition (SEC), support fundamentally different energy systems that oppose each other. Read More »

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Germany’s Energiewende is Shifting the Energy Paradigm – Now it’s Time to Optimize

solar-cells-491701_640Revolutionary paradigm shifts often require cohesive development of many moving parts, some of which advance more quickly than others in practice. Germany’s revolutionary Energiewende (or “energy transition”) is no exception. Set to achieve nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, Germany’s Energiewende is one of the most aggressive clean energy declarations in the world. While growth of Germany’s installed renewables capacity has been explosive in recent years, optimization measures designed for Energiewende have manifested at a relatively slow pace.

Germany already has one of the most reliable electric grids in the world, but as implementation of Energiewende continues, optimization will be key to its future success. This will require better sources of backup generation to accommodate the intermittency of wind and solar, a dynamic energy market that ensures fair compensation for this backup, and a more flexible, resilient grid enabled by smart grid technologies to fully optimize demand side resources and a growing renewable energy portfolio. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Energy Storage, Natural Gas, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged | Read 5 Responses
  • About the author

    Policy Analyst, Clean Energy
    Peter conducts research as part of the Clean Energy Program's "Idea Bank," or its internal consultancy. His research centers on many of the moving parts that comprise the electricity sector modernization.

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