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Key Takeaways | African Markets and Opportunities for Cross-Border Investments in Renewable Energy

On March 30, 2022, Carl Fleming and Emeka Chinwuba, partners in McDermott’s Energy and Project Finance Practice Group, hosted Dr. Abdelilah Chami, head of sustainability Northern & Central Africa at Enel Green Power, and Jay Katatumba, investment director at Africa50 Infrastructure Fund, for a lively discussion on the renewable energy space in Africa and cross-border investments.

The transition to renewable energy in Africa has progressed impressively over the last decade, with many countries working to increase renewable energy capacity in recent years. Forecasts by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicate that with the right policies, regulation, governance and access to financial markets, sub-Saharan Africa could meet up to 67% of its energy needs by 2030. This is reflected by the fact that average annual investments in renewable energy grew ten-fold from less than half a billion dollars during the 2000 – 2009 period to $5 billion during 2010 – 2020.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Development Financial Institution (DFI) participation in Africa’s power market is primarily driven by its mandate to make the cost of electricity more affordable, increasing access to electricity and improving the reliability of its power supply.

2. Energy access and consumption in Africa has global ramifications as we look to trade, commerce and development, future demographic trends and geopolitics with respect to energy costs and access.

3. From a power sector policy standpoint, each African country should be taking a holistic view when looking at the specific in-country and regional needs for energy, the entire value chain, related and existing infrastructure, local capabilities and local regulatory and governance frameworks.

4. In accessing various African jurisdictions for investment opportunities, private sponsors are focused on predictability, highest risk weighted returns, existing infrastructure and the whole value chain proposition for a specific asset.

5. Private sponsors are also looking for opportunities where projects are bankable and structured with very limited reliance on subsidies or other credit support from the host governments.

To access past webinars in this series and to begin receiving Energy updates, including invitations to the webinar series, please click here.




United Kingdom Government Confirms Change to Sustainability Criteria for Biomass

by Caroline Lindsey

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the United Kingdom published its response to its “Consultation on proposals to enhance the sustainability criteria for the use of biomass feedstocks under the Renewables Obligation (RO)” on 22 August 2013 (the Response). The original consultation was published on 7 September 2012.

In the Response, the UK Government confirms that it will proceed with its proposals to revise the content and significance of the sustainability criteria applicable to the use of solid biomass and biogas feedstocks for electricity generation under the Renewables Obligation (RO). The RO is currently the principal regime for incentivising the development of large-scale renewable electricity generation in the United Kingdom. Eligible electricity generators receive renewables obligation certificates (ROCs) for each megawatt hour (MWh) of renewable source electricity that they generate. Biomass qualifies as renewable source electricity, subject to some conditions.

Changes to the criteria

The sustainability criteria associated with the RO is broadly divided into greenhouse gas (GHG) lifecycle criteria, land use criteria and profiling criteria. There will be changes to all of the criteria, but the significant changes relate to the first two criteria, and will take effect from 1 April 2014.

In general terms, the GHG lifecycle criteria are designed to ensure that each delivery of biomass results in a minimum GHG emissions saving, when compared to the use of fossil fuel. The savings are measured in kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) per MWh over the lifecycle of the consignment (sometimes referred to as “field or forest to flame”). The UK Government has confirmed that all generating plants using solid biomass and / or biogas (including dedicated, co-firing or converted plants and new and existing plants) will be on the same GHG emissions trajectory from 1 April 2020 (200 kg CO2eq per MWh). In the meantime, new dedicated biomass power will be placed on an accelerated GHG emissions trajectory (240kg CO2eq per MWh). All other biomass power will remain on the standard GHG emissions trajectory (285kg CO2eq per MWh) until 1 April 2020.

Changes to the land use criteria will also be introduced. In particular, generating plants using feedstocks which are virgin wood or made from virgin wood will need to meet new sustainable forest management criteria based on the UK Government’s timber procurement policy principles.

The land use criteria set out in the European Union (EU) Renewable Energy Directive 2009 (RED) will continue to apply to the use of all other solid biomass and biogas, with some specific variations for energy crops. As is the current position, the land use criteria will not apply to the use of biomass waste or feedstocks wholly derived from waste, animal manure or slurry.

The new sustainability criteria will be fixed until 1 April 2027, except if the EU mandates or recommends specific changes to the sustainability criteria for solid biomass, biogas or bioliquids, or if changes are otherwise required by EU or international regulation.

Making compliance mandatory

Currently, whilst generators using [...]

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Possible UK Power Shortages Raise Concerns

by Thomas Morgan and David McDonnell 

A warning from the UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem, on 27 June 2013, that the ‘buffer’ capacity of spare electricity on the UK’s national power grid could drop to as little as 2% of national supplies by 2015, has raised concerns in relation to the possibility of widespread disruptions in service. This spare capacity currently stands at about 4%.

The warning was linked to an extensive Electricity Capacity Assessment Report, also published by Ofgem that same day. Revised studies have indicated that power supplies will shrink considerably by 2015, as electricity demand in the United Kingdom is not decreasing in the manner previously foreseen by successive governments. This is due to a variety of factors, among them, the low uptake by residential households of environmentally friendly incentives and energy-efficient practices.

Ofgem recommends the implementation of far-reaching market changes proposed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Among other things, DECC stated in a report, also published on 27 June 2013, that the UK electricity sector will require approximately £110 billion of capital investment in the next decade to modernise its infrastructure. This would create opportunities for investment which a range of market players are likely to monitor with interest.

DECC has also emphasised the need for a ‘Capacity Market’ – essentially an insurance policy against the possibility of future blackouts – which would work by providing financial incentives to generators to keep a certain percentage of energy capacity in reserve to cope with spikes in demand.

The British government has been quick to retort to concerns of service disruption, downplaying the risk of blackouts to domestic consumers and, while it is unlikely that blackouts reminiscent of those experienced in the United Kingdom in the 1970s will be relived, the very publication of a formal warning from Ofgem highlights the potential significance of the concern.




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