Renewables ripe for investment

An impressive line-up of speakers outlined a compelling case for investing in the blossoming renewables sector at an international conference in London this week.

The Renewable Energy Finance Forum (REFF) held its annual jamboree in the English capital this week providing a platform for everyone from government Ministers to industrial moguls to extol the virtues of clean energy and, equally importantly, to predict healthy profits for those willing to back the renewable revolution.

Esteban Morras, executive director of Spanish-based Acciona described his renewables to riches story telling how he had started out 15 years ago with a single project and a tiny staff and how the company had risen to become a diverse multinational corporation worth a small fortune.

He stressed the importance of not keeping all one's financial eggs in one basket and pointed out that Acciona was always keen to branch out into emerging sectors of the renewables industry. He also pointed out that it was important to temper visionary ideas in this young industry with sound business sense.

However the sector's future is assured, he argued, as long as their were concerns about the rising price of oil, security of supply, population growth, climate change and a growing thirst for energy in the developing world.

Mr Morras claimed renewables also had the potential to break the stranglehold on the energy markets of countries rich in gas and oil.

"All countries in the world have renewable energy resources," he said.

V Subramanian, secretary for India's Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Dests painted a picture of the emerging economies take on renewables and the targets it had set itself to ensure clean electricity generation played a significant role in the country's rapid growth.

Shri Subramanian also raised the issue of how when talking about renewables people often focused in on electricity generation and overlooked the huge potential of biofuels in providing heating and transport fuel.

Germany's Martin Schope of the Federal Ministry for the Environment looked at the European picture, focusing on the decisions his country had made to promote renewables in while phasing out nuclear power and discussed the relative merits of the two schools of incentives schemes that had been used in the EU to encourage more renewables - feed in systems which required grid operators to buy renewable energy from its producers versus quota systems that offered subsidies for renewables.

Underlying the whole proceedings was the message that, whichever way you choose to look at it, renewable energy is a huge growth market with a rosy future and, as Mr Morras told delegates, where banks would in the past have been reluctant to touch a project in the sector they are now well aware of its potential and the profits that it brings.

"A change in the world energy markets is a must and renewables should play a role in that change, we're convinced that the economics of renewables are already competitive today," he said.

"We can produce cheaper electricity with wind than with natural gas and other resoruces, and other technologies are getting cheaper all the time. The financial markets are ready for this, and that is very significant."

Now was the time to act, he claimed, as the world enjoyed a relatively healthy global economy and could afford to make the switch. If we waited until crisis point, he argued, replacing a large share of fossil fuel power generation with renewables would be considerably harder.

Sam Bond




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