Friday, February 10, 2012

Competitivity in US finance for renewables

The UK's pioneering wind farm off the Cumbrian coast at Walney opens today. This is a significant milestone in energy history.

Here in Maine we'd like to have a scheme ten times the size by the end of the next decade, but haven't put a single turbine in the water yet?

Why? How can a tiny little outfit like Britain out-perform the US in developing this crucial new industry?

Three reasons:

1) Climate denialism: Despite the leadership shown in the Mr Y article below, the House of Representatives remains dominated by denier sentiment. Even last year's catastrophic sequence of extreme weather events failed to shake this situation loose.

2) Technology: Maine's turbines will have to float. Britain's are fixed in shallow sea bed. Developing this new technology is costly and will take time.

3) Financial ignorance: Turbine farms, especially those sited in reliable wind, can pay a solid rate of return suitable for long term, conservative investors such as pension funds and family trusts. And, once a wind farm is built, the capital costs, which are over 90 percent of total costs, are locked in, and so the price of energy is then made inflation proof for years to come. But thus far this economic reality hasn't sunk in. There are large numbers of middle class and upper middle class investors in the US who will pass up these opportunities because either they or the brokers they employ don't understand the technology and the market.

Some of the world's largest pension funds invested in the Walney scheme.

Go figure.

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