What does the Terra Firma Withdrawl from Infinis Energy Reveal About Energy Subsidies?
Okay, so that’s a big, ‘ole gnarly headline, but a very important question. First, the news:
From The New York Times’ Dealbook:
Terra Firma, the European private equity fund founded by the British financier Guy Hands, is considering an exit from one of its big bets on renewable energy.
The company said on Monday that it was “exploring options to crystallize the value” of its 68.6 percent stake in Infinis Energy, a provider of wind power and other forms of renewable energy, including a potential sale. Terra Firma listed Infinis in an initial public offering in London in November 2013.
“Given that Terra Firma owns a significant majority stake, it believes there is merit to exploring potential interest in the stake as a whole alongside other options, including the potential for market sell downs,” the private equity fund said in a news release.
Terra Firma added that there was no certainty that a sale of any or all of its holdings in Infinis would take place, and did not specify on what terms it would consider such deals.
Of course, the natural next question is, “Well, why?”
The answer lies in the U.K.’s energy subsidies and the government’s perceived favoritism toward offshore wind, which Mr. Hands was highly critical of in a recent blog post. Hands claims onshore wind will undoubtedly be the cheapest energy source in a mere several years and the government is not taking notice. He cites a study for the European Commission found that onshore wind is “already far cheaper than gas, and half the cost of coal generation, when environmental and health factors are considered.”
“But rather than support this success,” he wrote, “the onshore wind industry finds itself under attack from government,” and claimed that “the government is putting its faith–and public money–in expanding offshore wind and the potential of shale gas.”
This leads to a larger question about the energy subsidies and the forms of energy they favor, perceived or otherwise. Discouraging investment isn’t exactly anyone’s goal, though often times that is what occurs. A similar situation arose earlier this year in California as the solar industry cried foul of a bill that required a set amount of power to be purchased from geothermal energy from the Salton Sea. The opponents of that bill made the same argument as Mr. Hands.
“I am not, despite my involvement with onshore wind, asking for the extra funds to be diverted to our sector,” he explained. “All we need is a level playing field. This requires the same level of subsidies for all generation, whether on or off-shore wind, nuclear power, gas fired power stations, biomass, shale gas, solar or clean coal, adjusted for their environmental effects.”
Certainly, this is a large question. Are subsidies fair? With investments such as this dropping, is it time to rethink the approach to subsidies? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere