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Plenty of renewables interest but where’s the money?

There was standing room only as the Renewable Energy Finance Forum (REFF) – London  – Europe’s largest and most established event for renewable energy finance and investment, which celebrated its 12th year anniversary. The highly successful 2-day conference united 400 investors and project developers from over 25 countries.

Lord Browne opened the conference that facilitated thought-provoking, open and highly controversial presentations and discussions on the European global renewables financial market. Other leading speakers included, Hermann Scheer, German MP and Chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy, Peter Gutman of Standard Chartered Bank, Craig Coborn of BP Alternative Energy and Yvo de Boer, Former Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change & Global Advisor on Climate & Sustainable Development, KPMG.

Over 2 days, speakers composed of almost 70 experts in the renewable energy sector continued the tradition from the last twelve years of bringing together key investors, bankers, developers and renewable energy service providers.

The renewable energy industry has achieved considerable successes here in Europe, which accounted for 44% of all renewable energy deals in 2009, up from 38% in 2008. That being said, the renewable industry is still in the midst of a very challenging period, with the EU Directive mandating 20% renewable energy by 2020 now in full force. Wind remains the most popular renewable and it has been helped along by government incentives as it has gained more than half of the roughly 26 billion invested globally in clean energy in the first quarter of 2010.

As a media sponsor, Schwartz attended the sessions and had a series of interesting conversations on our stand, leading us to take home a few key messages. Firstly, there are some real challenges in funding – the scale of investment needed for infrastructure projects such as the proposed supergrid is far beyond anything ever attempted in the history of mankind! Furthermore, the sector still hasn’t passed the institutional investment threshold – and how can it in the foreseeable future since it seems impossible to accurately calculate risks, and thus ROIs, on long-term windfarms for example.

Another interesting development was the confidence in solar and the belief that grid parity was achievable within the next five to ten years as panel costs come down. Currently, there are concerns about the key Italian and Spanish markets, but there were some positive sentiments about both. Of course the debate regarding feed-in tariffs went around in circles as usual with equally passionate supporters and opponents. However, all agreed that consistency and long term commitments from governments were essential whatever they decide.

With the momentum gained here in London, the conference moves on to San Francisco from September 29 to 30 celebrating its 3rd year of REFF West in the United States.

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Richard Hayhurst

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