Biggest Renewable Energy Investment Ever in Australia
Australian taxpayers will front the bill for what will be the biggest single investment in renewable energy ever. During negotiations of a new carbon price and diversion away from renewable energy subsidies, interests groups led by the country’s Greens and rural independents ensured that a significant potion of the investment be made into clean energy projects. The total $10 billion renewable energy investment will be carried out over a five-year period slated to begin 2013-2014.
The Australian government is forming a new Clean Energy Investment Corporation that will manage the public funds for renewable energy projects that otherwise could not acquire loans through traditional channels like banks. The corporation will be independently run by a board of directors.
Clean Energy Investment Corporation will make loans or take equity shares in projects with returns on investment being reinvested. The revenues will be split into two streams to appease both the Greens and Labor parties. The first will fund only renewable energy projects such as wind, solar and geothermal, while the second will make money available for hybrid vehicle purchase.
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The company will also invest in manufacturing businesses that provide parts for renewable energy projects, such as wind turbine and solar cell manufacturers. However, no funds will be granted for carbon sequestration or clean coal initiatives.
The clean energy corporation will be joined by a new independent agency to direct and manage $3.2 billion in existing government grants for renewables and biofuels, including the large-scale solar flagships program. Known as ARENA, the agency will also get future funds through dividends paid by the clean energy corporation and a potential share of revenue from the carbon price via any reduction in compensation for trade-exposed industries after 2014-15.
The Australian government believes that upward of $20 billion will be spent on renewable energy projects in Australia in the next decade, and $100 billion by 2050.
USS pension fund buys 50% stake in Bruc Energy
The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) private pension fund has taken a 50% stake in Bruc Energy, a Spain and Portugal renewables-focussed investment vehicle created by OPTrust and Spanish businessman, Juan Béjar.
In the transaction arranged by USS Investment Management, the wholly-owned subsidiary and principal investment manager and advisor to the Scheme, USS has invested €225M (c.£200m) in return for the stake in a major pipeline of 4,000MW of PV farms. Bruc Energy has an ambitious growth plan that goes beyond this to invest in other green energies, such as wind power.
USS, which announced two weeks ago its aim to be net zero by 2050, already has a strong relationship with both OPTrust and Juan Bejar through Globalvia, a specialist infrastructure platform focussed on managing rail and highways assets around the world.
Spain’s sun-drenched climate and national target to reach 100% renewable-based generation by 2050 make it an attractive place to invest in solar energy. In addition, the decades long lifespan of solar PV panels make them well-suited to USS in helping pay members’ pensions long into the future.
USS Investment Management CEO, Simon Pilcher, said: “We are delighted to be committing further finance to renewables and particularly to a major Spanish solar platform like this. We have already invested or committed around £1 billion to renewable energy and demand for this will only increase as more and more countries transition to lower carbon. We know that our members care very much about climate change and ESG and we are convinced that USS playing its part in supporting the transition to a low carbon economy makes good financial sense, too. This announcement closely follows on from our stated ambition to become Net Zero by 2050 so this transaction and others like it will be a key plank of our strategy going forward.”
Gavin Merchant, Co-Head of Direct Equity, said: “We have worked alongside OPTrust and Juan Béjar for many years and are delighted to be making this investment. The long-term nature of solar and the steady returns make renewables attractive to a pension scheme needing to pay pensions for years to come.”
OPTrust’s Morgan McCormick, Managing Director, Private Markets Group UK said: “We are excited to have USS join Bruc Energy building on our strong existing relationship. Their investment will help Bruc become one of the leading renewable energy platforms in Spain. At OPTrust, we believe that investing in renewable energy helps transitions the world to a more sustainable economy. In doing so, we can continue to deliver on our mission of paying pensions today and preserving pensions for tomorrow.”
Béjar said the partnership is a key step to establishing Bruc as one of the more dynamic players in the renewables industry in Spain, because it ensures access to the funds to develop our current portfolio. "All three shareholders of Bruc Energy share a long-term vision, but also the ambition and the social responsibility to counter the effects of climate change in the short-term," he said.
Following the transaction, which remains subject to conditions, including regulatory approval, Bruc Energy will be owned 50% by USS and BROP, a vehicle owned by OPTrust and Béjar. The transaction was advised by Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Greenhill and Nomura. Juan Béjar will be the president of Bruc Energy and Luis Venero the CEO.