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Six Takeaways: Developing and Financing Offshore Wind – Challenges and Opportunities

McDermott hosted James McGinnis, managing director at PJ Solomon, and Salvo Vitale, country manager at US Wind, on September 17 for an interactive discussion on the US offshore wind market.

Below are key takeaways from this week’s webinar.

1. The challenges facing the US offshore wind industry are similar to challenges that are faced with any newly-emerging industry: keeping the large number of stakeholders satisfied and maintaining support from the general public, which will need a concurrence of private interests towards common goals. Political winds in particular are subject to change, and therefore should be carefully monitored.  Policy ultimately aligning with industry to carry the industry forward will be critical.

2. Managing timing expectations can be particularly important. As a new industry, logistics and development processes are continuing to develop and there may be unexpected issues that influence timing (including logistical, technical and policy issues) that in turn affect stakeholders in various ways. To the extent possible, the industry should be prepared for these unknown risks.

3. Availability of tax equity will be critical and there are open questions as to whether that capacity will be available to support the large amount of capital that will be needed. Oil Majors and Strategic players will of course be advantaged in the near-term given these challenges. In the medium term, additional pools of tax-advantaged capital will need to be identified to fill the gap (or policy solutions will need to be employed to address this issue).

4. As the industry matures certain players such as certain equipment suppliers or service providers will likely become more prominent and sometimes the only reliable resource for such product or service. However, there are players in the market that may not be known in the US but are participants in the global market. The industry should continue to seek out other suppliers or service providers that are outside its comfort zone.

5. The enormity of capital needed to support all of the offshore development cannot be over-emphasized. Significant opportunities are and will become available for private equity investors to participate in a prudent and meaningful way (and to obtain outsized returns).

6. While some uncertainties and risks still exist in the US offshore wind industry, recent developments indicate that there is interest in the market and capital that is available to be deployed. As more projects move forward and permitting and other obstacles get resolved, barriers to additional capital deployment will be lowered.

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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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