Renewable energy deals are ramping up globally, but what about Australia?

Ted Surette, National Industry Leader, Energy & Natural Resources
Ted Surette, National Industry Leader, Energy & Natural Resources

It’s getting hotter and Australia is talking battery storage and whether the Telsa battery in South Australia will help keep the lights on.

A recent global report from KPMG and Mergermarket, Great Expectations: Dealmaking in the renewable energy sector canvassed the opinions of 200 senior level investors from APAC, EMEA, and the Americas. The results reveal dealmakers are particularly focused on opportunities involving large-scale projects in countries with welcoming regulatory structures to underpin their investment.

Not surprising battery storage will be big.

Given Australia’s recent pioneering with integrating battery storage in the National Energy Market (NEM), it’s noteworthy that 98 percent of respondents say the inclusion of battery storage is important when considering future renewable energy projects. Investors recognise costs are coming down but have varying views on when they believe renewable projects with battery storage will be able to deliver uninterrupted energy at grid parity. Only 8 percent believe this will happen within 3 to 4 years.

If Tesla’s 100MW battery project in South Australia performs well this summer, we should expect continued interest in battery technology to ramp up both globally and in Australia.

Overall deal volumes in the renewable energy sector have increased every year since 2010 with 198 deals (worth Euro 22.5bn) reported globally in the first half of 2017.

So how does the global investment outlook contrast with Australia?

In the words of Nobel Prize winning lyricist, Bob Dylan, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” with offshore wind expected to see the biggest rise in deal activity over the next 12 months.

This is driven by large scale projects in Europe and China. While some opportunities for offshore wind are currently being assessed in Victoria, the focus in Australia has been on increasing our onshore wind capacity and rapidly accelerating large scale solar.

Sympathetic policies matter

Investors consistently look for stable and favorable policy settings. For 60 percent of respondents, Germany’s policies are the most favourable among advanced economies. Australia ranked behind Japan with 13 percent of respondents commenting the policy environment as the least favourable.

What is clear is that policy certainty matters for investors. Given the current energy debate in Australia and the need for balancing growth of renewable energy capacity with more dispatchable energy generation, our Australian Business Leaders Survey, Keeping us up at night could not have been clearer with energy ranking #3 issue for Australia.

Forty percent of respondents expect Germany and China to see the biggest rise in renewable energy deal activity compared to the last 12 months. Respondents were significantly more reserved about Australia with Australia’s expected increase over the next 12 months reported at 5 percent. While 2017 was a boom year for renewable investment in this country’s onshore wind and solar projects, the value of these transactions is lower than the deal activity in other regions.

Both corporates (utilities, power producers) and financial buyers (infrastructure funds) are expected to be active in pursuing renewable deals in the next 12 months. Australia, is likely to follow this trend and the renewable energy boom driven by the 2020 Renewable Energy Target will continue to create deal opportunities in 2018. However, investors are concerned that, in the absence of national energy policy, investment activity will decline in the following years.

Gas, gas, gas

It no longer just about natural gas: hydrogen is now gaining attention. Nearly three quarters of respondents believe hydrogen will be a significant enabler for the advancement of renewable energy. Germany has been a mover in this area. While the trend is to hear more about hydrogen in the context of transport and heating, this is a space that will need to be followed both globally and in Australia. South Australia Government has clearly shown interest with its Hydrogen Roadmap released in 2017.

Overall, global investors are optimistic deal activity in renewables is expected to be very active as economies continue to transition to a lower carbon generation mix.

2018 should continue to be an active year in renewable investment in Australia. However the investment climate will depend on the progress of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) and achieving stable policies that provide energy affordability and reliability while meeting our global environmental commitments.

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