Monday, 27 February 2017

Pattern's Meikle likely to be last B.C. wind farm built for years, by Karl-Erik Stromsta, Recharge News, Feb 27, 2017

Pattern Development has completed its 184.6MW Meikle wind farm in British Columbia, in what is likely to be the last big wind project to come online in the western Canadian province for many years.

Meikle is the largest wind farm ever built in British Columbia, single-handedly boosting the province’s installed wind capacity by 37%, to nearly 674MW. But with electricity demand stagnant in British Columbia even as the 1.1GW Site C hydroelectric project advances, the renewables industry is not counting on much in the way of new opportunities there for the foreseeable future.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association reportedly pulled its regional director out of British Columbia last year, with the intention of focusing on the more obvious near-term opportunities blossoming in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The government in B.C. has said the controversial Site C will be the last major hydro project built in the province and future demand will be met by wind and solar. But barring a major new source of electricity demand, contracts for new wind farms are unlikely to be awarded any time soon, and perhaps not for a decade or more.

New wind opportunities are also on the decline in Ontario and Quebec, historically the two largest provincial wind markets.

Meikle, completed 33km north of Tumbler Ridge, near British Columbia’s border with Alberta, was built using two types of General Electric turbines, and designed to work with the site’s unique ridgelines in an area that has seen heavy forestry activity. The wind farm sells its power to state-owned utility BC Hydro.

Pattern acquired the project from local developer Finavera in 2013.

Conscious of the economic challenges in the remote area where Meikle was built, San Franciscobased Pattern Development – parent of the US-based renewables yieldco Pattern Energy – spent more than 30% of the value of its construction-related contracts with First Nations-affiliated contractors and other regional firms.

Sixteen O&M personnel will stay on to maintain the C$393m ($301m) project.

“Located in a mountainous region, this project was unique for its construction, design and weather challenges, as well as for our discovery of rare dinosaur tracks during construction, which we donated to the Tumbler Ridge Museum,” says Mike Garland, chief executive of both Pattern Development and Pattern Energy.

Pattern Energy, which is listed in both New York and Toronto, has the right of first offer on Meikle, and is expected to acquire the project at some point.

Roughly one-fifth of Pattern Energy’s 2.6GW of installed capacity is spread across its investments in five wind farms in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Colombian bank gears up for renewables with green bond issue, by Alexandre Spatuzza, Recharge News, Feb 16, 2017

 As Colombia’s energy regulator CREG finalises rules for renewable energy tenders, local finance house Bancolombia is ready to lend around $55m to clean-energy projects with money raised via Latin America’s first international green bond issue by a commercial bank.

“We have started disbursing the money and by May we will...announce the projects financed,” Bancolombia’s finance chief Jose Humberto Acosta told Recharge.

Bancolombia finalised the issue of 350bn Colombian pesos ($115m) in January. The bonds were all bought by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) as part of a programme to bolster green bond issues worldwide and help Colombia meet its greenhouse gas reduction target of 20% by 2020.

“About 50% of the issue will be directed to renewable energy,” said Acosta without giving details. The rest will go to other green industries in fields such as construction and sanitation, he added.

The green bond issue comes ahead of the implementation of Colombia’s revamped renewable energy policies, expected to be finalised this year. The country’s power agents, government officials and the energy regulator CREG have until the end of February to conclude a public consultation process to finalise tender rules to contract renewables under 15-year PPAs

Colombia’s Caribbean Sea region of La Guarija has huge wind and solar power potential, but the lack of clear regulations in the 2014 renewable energy bill and the absence of grid connection in the region have delayed the country’s entry onto the global renewable energy scene.

The country has 19MW of wind installed – out of a 16GW of total capacity – but has more than 2GW of wind projects in place, according to the newly-created Colombian Renewable Energy Association (SER). At the same time the government’s 2030 power expansion plan points to around 1GW of wind to be installed and some 300MW of solar.

For Bancolombia, the green bond issue and the partnership with IFC aim to get its clients ready for a growing green technology market.

“For our clients it’s a learning curve and the bank together with IFC will advise its clients on how meet compliance requirements for green projects,” said Acosta.

Another aim of the issue is to mitigate foreign exchange risks for renewable energy projects since the lending will be done in Colombian pesos. Although the government wants renewable energy tenders to be in pesos, energy market players prefer US dollar-denominated auctions.

Even so, Acosta said that the finance will not be significantly cheaper than other loans in Colombia.

For the IFC, Bancolombia’s green bond issue is part of the institution’s programme to support renewable energy and green technology financing in Latin America. Since 2010, the IFC has issued $5.6bn in green bonds worldwide.

The IFC’s manager for the Andean region, Carlos Leiria Pinto, said at the time of the issue that “by investing in the first green bond issued by Bancolombia, we hope to pave the way for other issuers and investors and contribute to the development of the green bond market in Colombia”.

Acosta agreed: “Other banks will follow our footsteps and we ourselves could hold another issue in three years.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Renewables a must-have as shadows lengthen over Big Oil: ONES TO WATCH 2017 | The world's oil giants are all too aware that the tide is turning so expect more activity in wind and solar this year, writes Darius Snieckus, Recharge News, Jan. 10, 2017

Expectations that Big Oil will increasingly move into renewables have been growing as crude prices continue to stagnate and 2017 will see more “old” energy developers begin to detail their play books for wind, solar and storage.

Many eyes will be on Shell this year. The Dutch-Anglo petroleum giant has been angling to bring its offshore oil and gas project nous – and capital (in the ‘crisis’ of 2015, it still had revenues of $265bn) – to bear on offshore wind. After failing at the first attempt it now has a chance to wet its head on a lead-off project: the 680MW Borssele 3&4 zone off the Netherlands, which it won with a low bid of €54.50/MWh ($57.85/MWh).

Chief executive Ben van Beurden last year admitted regret at having pulled out from its earlier position in offshore wind – apart from a share in the 108MW Egmond aan Zeewind farm commissioned in 2006 in the Dutch North Sea – and Shell’s chief energy advisor Wim Thomas told Recharge “the penny has now dropped that this is the new business space [to be committed to]”.

So anticipate more forward strides from Shell in offshore wind in 2017 – and not just on conventional projects. Shell also has stakes in WindFloat, the floating wind power unit now edging towards a first array off Portugal, and even a high-altitude wind energy outfit called KPS, which has a technology development timeline that will see its kite-driven concept flying offshore by the end of the decade.

Total, the French oil company, has shown a commitment to industrial-scale renewables since buying a majority stake in SunPower in 2011. But it was its fell-swoop takeover of battery maker Saft as its “spearhead in electricity storage” that has nailed its solar-plus-storage colours to the mast.

Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanné has made no secret of its renewables ambitions: a top-three solar player within 20 years.

Total is paying the price for its faith. On top of the $1bn deal for Saft, it has had to ride to the rescue of SunPower – after a doubling of the solar giant’s 2016 net loss guidance – with a first aid package that included a cash up-front order for 150MW of PV panels, and “discussions” to buy stakes in SunPower projects in Japan, South Africa, and France.

Total has also developed a venture capital-fuelled technology scouting programme, under the banner of Total Energy Ventures. Look to see more investment in start-ups in 2017, such as US wind leasing specialist United wind, and AutoGrid, a California-based digital grid management solution developer.

The Petroleum Age is ending and Big Oil knows it: investment in renewables has eclipsed that going into oil and gas for the second year running, fuelled by the latest $310bn spend.

Some oil and gas majors are already on their way. Danish state oil and gas company Dong has begun divesting petro-assets in favour of wind and now has a pace-setting 4.4GW under construction off Europe, and virgin acreage off the US – and no interest in the tail-end of North Sea’s black gold bonanza.

Its Norwegian counterpart Statoil will witness a watershed year for its renewable energy business as its second conventional offshore North Sea wind farm, the 402MW Dudgeon, comes online as does its 30MW Buchan Deep project – the world’s first floating array. It will also start work on its recently won 1GW zone off New York state.

Statoil's' own venture capital arm will in the meantime get to grips with its flagship solar power investment, part of an $8m package backing commercialisation of Oxford Photovoltaics ultrahighefficiency perovskite-based PV technology.

Even Italy's Eni – a company that until now had shown little interest in renewables, bar a partnership in a floating wind scheme designed to pump more oil and gas out of offshore fields – has wheels turning on plans to jointly develop large-scale renewables with US industrial giant GE under a framework agreement that encompasses onshore and offshore wind, as well as solar.

The shadow of stranded assets may be growing ever-longer, but for Big Oil investment prospects are also getting darker by the day. Fitch Ratings pointedly warned last year that failing to diversify into renewables could damage access to capital as global demand for petroleum slows.

Renewables are no longer a "nice to have", they are a existential need.