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The ESG Opportunity: Hydrogen, CCS and Decarbonization

Carl Fleming, a partner in McDermott’s Energy and Project Finance Group and leader in its Energy Transition Team, hosted a panel of industry leaders from Apex Clean Energy, Leyline Renewables and Pattern that explored the opportunities and challenges for ESG and hydrogen. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Various companies are looking to the environmental, social and governance (ESG) opportunity, particularly long haul trucking, overseas shipping and airlines, where the fuel needs far exceed those currently available for electrification and where recharging stations are limited or impossible. As a result, we are likely to see a mix of electric and hydrogen going forward where one technology may be slightly more advantageous than another. Or we may see the two complement one another in a larger strategy.
  2. Midstream oil & gas operators are looking to increasingly transition to hydrogen, whether it is green, blue or turquoise hydrogen. Which shade of hydrogen prevails will be determined by the capital costs involved as well as ESG demands.
  3. Transmission congestion is affecting the ability of many renewable energy developer to deliver power from some of the most resource-rich areas. However, hydrogen offers an excellent solution in some cases as it eases the need for transmission in those highly congested areas.
  4. The high costs of hydrogen as well as the need to build out an infrastructure to properly transport are current challenges that are in the process of being overcome by a slew of developers who see the opportunity for hydrogen.
  5. The Biden Administration’s support of hydrogen hubs and billions in hydrogen infrastructure should continue to spur further hydrogen development at a rapid pace.

Carl Fleming and his team in Houston are currently leading a large number of hydrogen transactions for leading developers.  In particular, they are enabling a number of first-in-kind hydrogen transactions utilizing newer technologies and investment strategies.




Development Market Outlook in ERCOT

Carl Fleming, a member of McDermott’s Energy and Project Finance Group and head of its Energy Storage Team, hosted a panel of industry leaders from Vistra, UKA North America and Origis that explored the opportunities and challenges for utility-scale solar and standalone energy storage development in the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Here are the key takeaways:

  1. A huge wave of solar and standalone storage projects is hitting ERCOT. Per recent reports, as of September 2021, developers had more than 100GW of solar, 42GW of utility-scale battery storage, 22GW of wind and 13GW of natural gas in the queue.
  2. It’s unclear what the future holds for the market due to transmission congestion, the impact of so much solar going online and its effects on the power price curve, as well as supply chain issues.
  3. Transmission congestion is affecting the ability to deliver power from some of the most resource-rich areas. However, ERCOT remains more predictable than certain other markets that have recently announced temporary pauses in processing the transmission pipeline queue.
  4. The large increase of solar on the system in such a short period of time is already having impacts on the power price curve. However, certain corporates in their efforts to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals are willing to build for more than purely economic reasons and can help offset that volatility to a degree.
  5. Supply chain issues continue and are expected to worsen, resulting in increased risks around projects costs and completion. While this has resulted in a number of developers having to revisit their power purchase agreements, those with robust procurement programs were able to mitigate this risk in advance and have been able to continue business as usual.
  6. The use of quantitative analytics or “quants” in project development is growing and has enabled certain developers to optimize energy storage project location in ERCOT as well as optimize their project outputs. The key, however, is properly integrating the quantitative data into the project development decision making process.

Carl Fleming and his team in Houston are currently leading a large number of solar, wind and storage transactions across ERCOT for leading developers and private equity funds. In particular, they are enabling a number of first-in-kind battery storage transactions utilizing newer technologies and investment strategies.




Key Takeaways | Finding and Structuring Development Capital for Renewable Platforms and Projects

During the latest webinar in our Energy Transition series, McDermott Partners Christopher Gladbach and Joel Hugenberger hosted Angel Fierro, managing partner of PLEXUS Solutions, and Jorge Vargas, managing partner & co-founder of Aspen Power Partners, to discuss what financing is available to fund the development of projects before they reach notice to proceed (NTP). They also covered what capital providers and developers consider when approaching development capital to fund pre-NTP expenses and general business expansion and the challenges and opportunities associated with these financing products.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. The market for pre-NTP financing is expanding and diversifying. Traditionally, pre-NTP costs were covered by a developer using the development fee they received from selling a completed project or by granting preferred equity. Today, large credit funds, Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) funds, boutique finance groups, family offices, oil and gas companies and corporations are all providing pre-NTP financing, and development loans are becoming a more common way for developers to cover pre-NTP costs.

2. Sponsors should look for development lenders that understand the typical risks and delays associated with the project development process. Development lenders need to be flexible and ready to accommodate development delays and other unexpected issues that arise as a project is brought to market. (This includes flexibility related to amendments and consents.) Lenders should be prepared to quickly provide amendments and waivers to address changes in a project’s timeline as it progresses toward NTP.

3. Price should not be the only thing developers consider when deciding which source of development capital to use. Developers should ensure that they and the capital providers are aligned when it comes to deadlines for NTP to occur, capacity to accommodate delays in the development process and the share of income generated from the project.

4. Development capital is essentially a bet on a development team, and in evaluating a development team, development lenders assess what experience management has and their success working together to bring projects to market. Development lenders want to see that a development team has people who know how to mitigate risk across the various segments of the development process (e.g., origination, site control, permitting, power marketing, etc.).

5. Power purchase agreements (PPAs) are becoming scarcer and shorter (10-year terms are replacing 25-year terms), and lenders and investors are getting more comfortable with providing capital to merchant projects and other projects that have traditionally struggled to obtain financing.

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




Key Takeaways | Lender Outlook on the Debt Financing of Renewables and Transactions

During the latest webinar in our Energy Transition series, McDermott Partners Robert da Silva Ashley and John Bridge hosted Paul Pace, SVP and team leader at KeyBank, and Andrew Chen, managing director at CIT, to discuss the current outlook of leading lenders in the US renewables and transactions space. More specifically, they focused on lender outlook regarding the state of debt market support for the growing range of renewable power generation and clean energy infrastructure projects.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. The financing market for renewable projects remains extremely competitive, compressing pricing for lenders and driving innovations in financing structures with credit increasingly given to shorter tenured power purchased agreements (PPAs) and earlier merchant tails.

2. Current supply chain delays and inflationary pressures are creating significant stress. Solar panels and other major equipment are stuck in ports and sharp rises in project costs (insurance, labor wages, operations and maintenance, etc.) are starting to have a noticeable effect on the viability of certain project developments.

3. Lenders have been leaning heavily on client relationships with established track records of successful project developments, strong financial footing and credibility with industry counterparties helping to navigate the current challenges.

4. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) remains a focus for banking institutions driven by regulatory and environmental factors.

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




Key Takeaways | How Traditional Energy Funds are Shifting Toward Green Energy: A Conversation with Encap Investments and Quantum Energy Partners

The energy market has undergone significant change in the past 12 months, with even more on the horizon. Our webinar series explores how these changes have shaped—and will continue to impact—the energy industry, including discussions of what’s to come.

Our latest webinar featured McDermott partners Edward Zaelke and Parker Lee, as well as Shawn Cumberland, Managing Partner of Energy Transition of EnCap Investments, and Alex Jackson, Director at Quantum Energy Partners.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Although energy transition investment funds may have different focuses, they generally take an all-of-the-above approach, with respect to investing, in the various subsectors of the energy transition and are willing to invest in any technology, in any portion of the energy industry (except for highly capital intensive projects with binary risk profiles).

2. Similar to the approach for conventional oil and gas investments, investment funds are focused on investing in strong management teams with a successful track record, which is manifested either through a management team that already has an interesting business plan or a management team that can successfully implement the investment fund’s strategy for a new business.

3. Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) policies have become pervasive in all industries—especially within the energy industry—and must permeate all aspects of an investment fund’s strategy. Effective ESG policies and proper environmental stewardship have become licenses to operate within the energy industry and without them, operating companies and investment funds will have extremely limited ability to gain legitimate interest from potential investment partners.

4. When developing a relationship between an investment fund and a management team for a new investment, it is critical for both parties to ensure there are aligned interests and expectations between the two parties.

5. Investment funds see abundant opportunities within the energy transitions space and are bullish on those investments’ capability to satisfy energy demand over the next two to three decades but are also looking to achieve diversification to protect their limited partners from the cyclical nature of energy investment.

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




Why 2030 is the New 2050 after the Leaders Climate Summit and What President Biden’s Accelerated Transition to a Sustainable Economy Means for Renewables Developers, Investors and Corporates

2030 is the new 2050 as US President Joe Biden has officially set a new goal for fighting climate change over the next decade in the United States. At the Leaders Climate Summit (the Summit) on Earth Day, he announced that America would aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% below its 2005 levels by 2030. If successful, this transition would lead to a very different America and would affect virtually every corner of the nation’s economy, including the way Americans get to work, the sources from which we heat and cool our homes, the manner in which we operate our factories, the business models driving our corporations and the economic factors driving our banking and investment industries. The effectiveness of this transition lies in the administration’s ability to pull on two historically powerful levers: Tax policy and infrastructure funding. However, tax policy will call upon multiple sublevers, such as increased tax rates, expanded tax credits, refundability, carbon capture, offshore wind, storage, transmission and infrastructure investment. All of this will be bolstered by the American corporate sector’s insatiable appetite for environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) goal investment.

QUICK TAKEAWAYS

There were six key announcements at the Summit for renewables developers, investors and corporates to take note:

  1. The United States’ commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% – 52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030
  2. The United States’ economy to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050
  3. The United States to double the annual climate-related financing it provides to developing countries by 2024
  4. The United States to spend $15 billion to install 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations along roads, parking lots and apartment buildings
  5. A national goal to cut the price of solar and battery cell prices in half
  6. A national goal to reduce the cost of hydrogen energy by 80%

President Biden’s goals are ambitious. It is clear from the history of renewable incentives in the United States as well as current developments that moving forward, the green agenda will predominately rely on two primary levers being pulled at the federal level: Tax policy and infrastructure funding. The federal tax levers mentioned above will not be pulled in a vacuum. Instead, they will be pulled in the midst of a tectonic shift among individual investors that now demand that institutional investors and corporations begin to create and meet ESG goals as individual customers are beginning to take a corporation’s climate goals and footprint into account when making purchasing decisions.

As a result, we discuss the following areas in greater detail below:

  1. Tax policy
    1. increased tax rates
    2. expanded tax credits
    3. refundability
    4. carbon capture
    5. offshore wind
    6. storage
    7. transmission
  2. Infrastructure bill
  3. ESG environment

DEEPER DIVE: BREAKING DOWN EACH LEVER AS WELL AS ITS OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

  1. Tax Policy: The consistent message from the Biden Administration, at the Summit and elsewhere, makes clear that tax policy will likely play a significant role in the administration’s ambitious climate agenda. At [...]

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Three Takeaways: Tensions in the Renewable Energy and Environmental Markets


McDermott recently hosted Jonathan Burnston, Managing Partner of the energy sector financial services firm Karbone, for a discussion of recent developments affecting environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, renewable energy and carbon offsets.

Three takeaways from this week’s webinar below:

      1. Interest in ESG investing is unlikely to fade. ESG indices have performed relatively well in the COVID-19 environment and the concerns that motivate ESG investing are not going away.
      2. ESG investing is different from reducing emissions or pursuing carbon neutrality. Positive returns from ESG investments do not themselves reduce emissions or mitigate the impacts of climate change.
      3. Corporate interest in becoming “carbon neutral” is also likely to continue. Due to recent economic disruptions, there may be some delays in achieving some previously announced commitments. However, the pressures and concerns that have motivated the interest in carbon neutrality remain powerful forces.

Listen to the full webinar.

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Access past webinars in this series.




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