Renewables sector must come out fighting at EWEA


March 10, 2014

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The wind industry is making final preparations for the annual European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) conference in Barcelona this week.

One topic up for discussion in the Catalonian capital is the warning last Thursday, from a group of UK Members of Parliament, that global stock markets could be inflating a carbon bubble by overvaluing companies with fossil fuel assets.

The MPs, who make up a group called the Environmental Audit Committee, have also stated that less than half the investment in energy infrastructure needed to deliver 2020 emissions reductions in place. That’s a significant shortfall.

This warning was reiterated by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, ahead of upcoming climate talks in Bonn.

It’s a curious scenario that encapsulates challenges that seem well beyond the control of the renewables industry.

It is perverse that some of the most toxic asset classes draw the biggest interest; and it is a significant concern that, despite all the legislation, policy and lobbying, firms with large balance sheets predicated on coal, oil and gas still dominate investment markets. This also lets carbon-heavy energy providers off the hook.

The most worrying element of this warning is that it is portrayed not as the failure in clean energy policy that it really is, but as a forewarning of the potential for yet more financial armageddon. A sad indictment.

The commission warns that national governments should start to move to reduce the risks of a carbon bubble, but one can’t help but wonder what – if anything – will actually happen. There is a logic to tackling the demand side of the issue, but the mechanisms for doing so aren’t quite there.

In other words, the commission is right to highlight the issue, but the cost of the carbon heavy businesses, stocks and investments is still too attractive.

The carbon floor price is still far too low to tempt any serious investors, and the policy mechanisms for supporting renewable energy still lack long-term certainty worldwide.

Given the dire straits that the Spanish renewable energy market finds itself in, the Barcelona conference must provide a platform for the industry to come out fighting.

The onus is on the European market to prove it is relevant and making a difference.[/private}

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