Elgar Middleton completes the financing of a wind farm in Scotland

Elgar Middleton is delighted to have advised Hermes GPE LLP (“Federated Hermes”) on the holdco financing of its majority stake in the 144MW Fallago Rig Wind Farm (the “Project”)

Federated Hermes was able to leverage the Project’s robust contractual structure and high proportion of fixed revenues to obtain a competitive financing package. This included PPAs with EDF Energy plc and BT plc.

Elgar Middleton advised Federated Hermes throughout the financing process to secure c.£132 million of long-term non-recourse debt and ancillary facilities.

Boralex acquires Infinergy and secures a 338MW renewable pipeline in the UK

Elgar Middleton is delighted to have advised Boralex on the acquisition as buy-side financial advisor

Boralex acquires Infinergy’s interests in the United Kingdom. The transaction includes Infinergy’s portfolio of projects in development and its 50% interest in a joint venture formed with Boralex in 2017, as well as the integration of the Infinergy team into Boralex.

With this acquisition, Boralex now owns a portfolio of 338 MW of wind and solar power and energy storage projects in the UK, including 232 MW owned by the joint venture with Boralex and 106 MW owned directly by Infinergy.

Infinergy’s team of 9 employees will join Boralex, enabling the acceleration of project development, including projects currently being explored in the high-potential UK market. Boralex will gain from the expertise of a team that has been developing energy projects for 19 years and has successfully completed approximately 300 MW of projects in the UK.

The transaction will enable Boralex to benefit fully from the revenues and optimisation initiatives related to the future operation of projects under development and ready for construction, including the Limekiln project. A symbol of the early years of the Infinergy-Boralex joint venture, Limekiln Wind Farm is one of the more advanced projects in the agreement. In May 2022, this project received planning permission for 110 MW of capacity, enough to power more than 96,000 British households. It is scheduled to be built in 2023.

This acquisition provides Boralex the opportunity to strengthen its European presence in markets with a high potential for further development. Its strategic plan calls for doubling its installed capacity worldwide to 4.4 GW by 2025 and again, to double such capacity between 2025 and 2030.

Octopus Australia refinances 333MWdc Darlington Point Solar Farm

Elgar Middleton is delighted to have advised Octopus Australia on the refinancing of a solar portfolio in the New South Wales

Octopus Australia’s operating solar farm, Darlington Point Solar Farm 333MWdc / 275MWac is located in New South Wales, Australia and is the largest operating solar farm in Australia.

Octopus Australia secured a tailored financing package of approximately A$200m from a syndicate of banks comprising Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac, Deutsche Bank and Bank of China.

We are very excited for the next period for Darlington Point solar farm and the ability for this site along to bring clean energy to over 115,000 households in Australia.

Field secures a £46m financing to build a 110MW battery storage portfolio

Elgar Middleton is delighted to have advised Field on the financing of the construction of a battery storage portfolio located in the UK

Field has secured a £46m loan from Triple Point Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Company (“TEEC”). This loan will finance the construction of an initial portfolio of four battery storage projects located in England, Scotland, and Wales. The first project has started construction and is expected to become operational this year, with the remaining three projects expected to start operations over the course of 2023.

This long-term financing with a c.19 year tenor will be drawn down over the course of the current financial year. The financing also includes a tailored ESG margin ratchet, with a discount being applied for success against a number of ESG KPIs. In addition to this margin ratchet, the loan features other innovative terms and structuring including an accordion facility to fund the build-out of at least an additional 500MWh of battery storage assets.

Field’s ambition is to respond to the global net zero challenge by installing 1.3GW of battery storage assets by 2024. This ambition is aligned with the increasing need for flexibility assets that need to be installed to accommodate the development of carbon-free but intermittent energy generators.

The commitment made by the UK government for cleaner energy is targeting that 100% of the electricity generated in the UK by 2035 should come from low carbon sources. To reach this ambitious target, the rollout of renewable energy will not only have to keep a good pace, but it will have to accelerate. According to analysis from GlobalData [1], the UK’s renewable power capacity should reach more than 110GW in 2030 while in 2020 this capacity was around 47GW – it is a 134% increase in 10 years.

This significant development of renewable energy will trigger a need for more flexibility assets to manage the intermittency. According to Aurora [2] , the UK will need to have installed 46GW of energy storage by 2035, with c.22GW likely to be battery storage (with a duration between 0 and 4 hours). As of March 2022, the total installed capacity of energy storage in the UK was 1.7GW [3], meaning that, based on Aurora’s analysis, this capacity would need to be multiplied by more than 20 over the next 13 years.

Elgar Middleton continues to support Field on its innovative battery storage portfolio. This deal is another example of Elgar Middleton’s market-leading work advising in the battery storage sector, demonstrating its ability to structure and source innovative ways of financing this technology. The UK will need a significant increase in its battery storage capacity over the coming years and Elgar Middleton is uniquely placed to help shape its growth.

Footnotes

[1] https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/news/uk-renewable-energy-capacity-2030/
[2] https://auroraer.com/insight/long-duration-electricity-storage-in-gb-2/
[3] https://www.energy-storage.news/the-numbers-behind-the-record-breaking-rise-of-the-uk-battery-storage-market/#:~:text=The%20UK%20installed%20446%20MW,storage%20sites%20has%20also%20increased

 

X-Elio reaches financial close of 200MW Bluegrass Solar Farm

Elgar Middleton is delighted to have advised X-Elio on the financing of the 200MW Bluegrass Solar Farm in Queensland, Australia

The project benefits from a portfolio of innovative offtake agreements and strong grid connections due to its location in South Queensland.

The A$170m tailored financing package, provided by a syndicate comprising of CEFC , ING and SMBC, was required to reflect the advanced project structure.

Elgar Middleton advised X-Elio throughout the financing process marking the first successful cooperation between X-Elio and Elgar Middleton in Australia.

Neoen reaches financial close of A$370m Kaban Green Power Hub

Elgar Middleton is delighted to have advised Neoen on the financing of the 157MW Kaban Green Power Hub in Queensland, Australia

The project benefits from a 15 year capacity purchase agreement (CPA) with CleanCo Queensland and also involves the upgrade of a 320km transmission line between Cairns and Townsville that supports renewable energy in the region.

The financing package is provided by a syndicate comprising BNP Paribas, HSBC, MUFG, NAB and NORD/LB and includes a number of features which deliver material value for Neoen.

Elgar Middleton advised Neoen throughout the financing process which marks the fourth successful cooperation between Neoen and Elgar Middleton across Australia and Europe.

The Dark Arts of Financial Modelling

There’s a common perception that a financial model is a black box – numbers go in and numbers come out, but what happens in between is a complete unknown and only to be understood by an elite few who dabble in the dark arts. It is certainly true to say that some financial models do meet that description, but a good financial model should not.

A good financial model should be easy to follow and transparent in its structure. A lot has been written about the importance of clear formulas, but where there is far less focus on models is in the structure of the model itself.

I like to think about this in terms of a marble run. For the lucky people out there who haven’t experienced the joy of a marble run, the basic idea is to drop a glass marble in at the top and watch it descend through all the various traps and tricks you have built before finally coming to rest under the fridge or equivalently inaccessible place. So what does this have to do with models? I think of the marble as an input, its journey as the workings of the model and its final resting place as the result.

A good marble run is largely the opposite of a good model. It is complex, does a few wholly unnecessary loop the loops and produces random results, but there are some similarities. If you put the marble in at the top and it doesn’t go anywhere or gets stuck, it’s not much fun. In the same way, we see plenty of models with excess marbles (sorry, inputs) that are redundant or don’t contribute to the derivation of the results. This is no fun either and, at its worst, can lead to a significant error.

A good model represents the most simple and boring marble run. The marble should go in at the top and clearly work its way through the system. The system should be designed so that it is easy to add more inputs and more sections, but that so that there is no doubt the overall flow will be unchanged. In the diagram above, another input ball can be added and its journey is clear. It will not skip a section, come out the side or move over to another section. This is the transparent art of financial modelling.

At Elgar Middleton we can build some great marble runs, but we also know how to build good models.

Elgar Middleton completes the financing of a solar portfolio in the Republic of Ireland

Elgar Middleton is delighted to have advised Neoen and BNRG on the financing of three solar PV farms, totalling 58MWp, in the Republic of Ireland.

The three projects will be among the first large-scale solar projects to be installed in Ireland, and will benefit from Irish State support through a CFD mechanism until 2037.

Elgar Middleton advised Neoen and BNRG in their successful participation in the RESS-1 auction and throughout the financing process, allowing the projects to secure over €30 million of long-term non-recourse debt and ancillary facilities from Société Générale.

How to Avoid A Climate Disaster: A Book Review

Introduction

In a recent FT interview, the bestselling author of “Homo Deus” and “Sapiens”, Yuval Noah Harari remarked that the COVID pandemic is no longer a natural disaster but a political one. Furthermore, it has revealed the inability of national governments and institutions to coordinate and act in unison to prevent a global disaster. And while we are still battling one disaster, another one is unfolding beyond a tipping point: climate change.

In the next few paragraphs, we will attempt to zoom out of the current M&A and financing transaction frenzy keeping us busy and briefly assess the high-level context renewable energy projects on the path of decarbonization.

To do this we have selected a few key insights from Bill Gates’ latest book: “How to Avoid A Climate Disaster”, published earlier this year.

A long story short: Summary

The book makes a meaningful contribution to the current climate change action debate in at least two distinctive ways.

Firstly, it provides a simple and clear overview of the relative contribution to global CO2e emissions from several areas of our lives (electricity, construction, transport, etc.). Secondly it provides directions of how emissions can be reduced over a 30-year horizon and what action stakeholders can take to address an obvious shortage in climate technology innovation.

The main theme is that avoiding a climate disaster is a combination of two factors: adaption and mitigation, with 80% of the chapters focused on mitigation. The fundamental message is that all efforts should be focused on eliminating approximately 51 billion tons of C02e (equivalent emissions) p.a. from today’s emissions by 2050.

The author makes a clear point that efforts to (only) reduce emission by 2030, such as replacing coal with gas generation or petrol cars with diesel/hybrid, are in fact counterproductive as they are not only insufficient to enable humankind to achieve a full emission elimination but represent a different social and technological trajectory than decarbonization by 2050. Therefore, decarbonization focus and targets should be assessed on the basis of their contribution to the “zero emission by 2050” target and not merely a reduction effort.

The below paragraphs will summarize several of the book’s chapters but omit a significant part of insightful advice provided in the book on adaptation / government policy and personal contribution. We consider the practicality of those ideas both highly relevant and relatable.

What are the consequences of delayed action?

Before we provide a short list of the what the social and economic costs of a delayed response might be, let us first consider what the impact of COVID-19 related economic curtailment is. It turns out CO2e [1] emission levels have reduced [2] by approximately 2-3 billion tons or just less than a 6% reduction in required levels.

This is not encouraging at all, in particular given that the increased economic activity projected for 2021 is already expected to compensate for some of those saved emissions.

A lot has been said about the consequences of pandemic related, cause-effect relationships, so here is a reminder taken from the book, of some social, political and demographic consequences, which hopefully resonate even more in a post-pandemic world:

How can the financial impact of climate change be quantified?

The book puts forward a simple model that approximates the impact of climate change [3] to the US economy to be roughly equivalent of the effect of one COVID-19 pandemic once every 10 years. This is equivalent to a reduction of approximately 1-1.5% in US GDP per annum or an approximate GDP reduction of USD 2-3T every 10 years.

Considering the scale of the potential financial impact, what part of this cost is already priced in by the global equity and debt markets?

It seems the answer is “not much” – at least according to PGIM’s David Hunt and Taimur Hyat. In “Megatrends- Weathering-Climate-Change Spring 2021” they consider the possibility of a “climate change Minsky moment”, leading to a sharp and disorderly repricing across all asset classes at an approximate cost of USD 20. Their estimations are that the equity and bond premium in many sectors are inadequately reflecting the associated (local) climate risks. In particular municipality / state (Miami / Florida) and sovereign debt rating (e.g. Bangladesh, California) seem to be non-representative of the impact of local weather events. To what extend might a major repricing of sovereign bonds, even if it doesn’t result in non-payment defaults, lead to cross contamination of global fixed income markets remains to be seen. Historical references (e.g. “Asian Contagion”, “Russian financial crisis”) might offer insights. Equity asset repricing risk, according to the authors is high, with additional equity market discount of approximately -200bps for Indian equities and -50 bps for Chinese equities not captured in current stock prices.

These estimates also ignore all the significant economic cost associated with increased inequality, humanitarian cost of deaths.

What needs to be done?

So, if the target is to remove 51B tons of CO2e per year, Bill Gates’ team suggest that there are two ways to achieve this. One seems plausible and the other less so, but let’s start with the easy answer first: Direct Air Capture (“DAC”).

DAC is a largely unproven technology for capturing CO2 directly from the air and currently pegs at a cost of USD 200 per ton of captured CO2. Capturing approximately one C02 molecule out of 2500 air molecules is less efficient compared to direct point capture, which can result to up to 90%, but CCS (carbon capture and storage) technologies have hardly been a success story historically and more importantly, only energy generation emissions can be subject to CCS point capture.

So, removing 51B tons per year at USD 100 (50% lower than the current cost) will be equal to USD 5.1T per year. For reference this is the GDP of Germany (3.86T) and Spain (USD 1.4T) together. Joe Biden’s “American Jobs Plan” infrastructure plan envisages spending USD 2T over 8 years, funded over tax increases over 15 years!

Even if it was technologically feasible the cost might be prohibitive.

Let’s move on to the second – also difficult – but more realistic option: emission reduction. Where do most emissions come from?

The next sections will focus on a few ideas on how to tackle three of them

How we make things (Manufacturing): 31% of total emissions

Having such a high proportion of emissions attributed to one sector might be considered good news as progress should be quick. Unfortunately, the ability to decarbonize the production of cement, steal, plastic and aluminum is rather complex.

Making cement contributes approximately 1 ton of C02e per ton of cement, and with approximately 5Bn metric tons produced in a year it responsible for the same emission intensity as steel production which is twice as intensive at 1.8t CO2/ 1t. Both together contribute more than 10Bn tons of CO2 emissions per year (approximately all the CO2 emissions of China p.a.).

Steel and aluminum production can be zero carbon if electrified (for example via molten oxide electrolysis) and so can plastic production – if produced from captured carbon and added heat.

There is potential for reduction of cement emission of up to 70%, but it comes at a relatively high premium. One approach might be to add captured “recycled” carbon  to calcium oxide in the cement production process. Another, more theoretical one, is the production of cement from seawater, but even those would not enable 100% clean cement.

How much higher will the cost of these goods be if we need to decarbonize immediately:

    • Plastic – Cost increase: +10-15% to USD 1115/t
    • Steel premium – Cost increase: +16-29% to USD 850-1000/t
    • Cement – Cost increase: 75-104% to USD 220-300/t

How we plug in (Electricity): 27% of total emissions

Not surprisingly a transition to low carbon generation seems to be key and for most developed nations (such as the US & EU) a transition to a 100% green grid will come at an increase of 15-20% (or USD 13 a month) in power bills per household per year. The problem of course is the rest of the world and developing countries in Asia (India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan) and Africa. Their Green Premium Costs at the moment are disproportionally higher, hence their slower ability to decarbonize. On the other hand, if they follow China’s coal energy generation path, a climate disaster will be unavoidable.

The book goes very briefly into dealing with the intermittency of renewable generation, but the author admits that its more the seasonal intermittency that’s problematic.

Also, unsurprisingly, the book mentions a technology that the author has been supporting for at least a decade: nuclear fission (not to be confused with nuclear fusion). We should mention that fission reactors are 15x more efficient in using construction materials (cement and glass) than solar and 10x more efficient than wind and approximately 400x less deadly than coal and 40x less deadly than gas. Could and should nuclear be a fundamental part of the energy mix of the future? According to Bill Gates, the answer is a resounding “Yes”. Many might disagree.

Herewith, the solutions proposed for reducing emission in energy generation are rather straightforward: a) more investment in interconnection and distribution networks, b) more offshore wind/solar, storage, cheap hydrogen / thermal storage and in the meantime, carbon capture, and, last but not least, c) reduced energy usage and ramping up of energy efficiency measures.

How we get around: 16% of total emissions

Transport is only the fourth biggest contributor of emissions but is currently receiving a lot of attention. The emission breakdown is as follows:

Gasoline’s “Green premium” of USD 2.43/gallon to USD 5/gallon is equivalent to a 100% increase if we replace petrol with advanced biofuels or USD 8.2 (350%) if we employ electro fuels (hydrogen + carbon). Trucks, buses and planes are subject to approximately the same premiums.

Container ships currently have a fuel cost below USD 1.29/L so an equivalent fuel increase of 326% / 600% increase might suggest why they will decarbonize last.

Quick word on electro fuels, which are produced from (clean) hydrogen with added carbon and include biodiesel, methane and butanol. These are obviously interesting as a carbon recycling idea but considering the immense cost of producing clean hydrogen and carbon capture, it seems like electric vehicles (“EV”) or hydrogen itself will be much more efficient.

So, the solutions here seem to be to drive less or failing that, encourage more EVs  and increase effort to improve biofuels or electro fuels to lower the green premium.

The role of innovation and R&D

Unsurpisingly, almost all of the proposed solutions rely on upgrades in technology or significant improvements in industrial or manufacturing processes. The speed of these improvements depends to a large extend on the priority and incentives these types of technological innovations receive from policy makers at state/federal or local level.

The message from the book is that efforts in developing technological solutions are currently insufficient and more public support is required both to increase the supply and demand for innovation in clean technology in the following areas:

Conclusion

The above summary captures only about half of the book. To gain the full picture including the areas of heating, cooling, agriculture, adaptation and government and consumer behaviour changes, we do recommend getting a copy of this well researched and very readable book.

We found the high-level breakdown of C02e emissions combined with the impact of different solutions to be straightforward and helpful in contextualizing the effort required to reduce emissions and reduce the impact of climate change.

A clear theme explored through the book is that electrification of different sectors (transport, industrial processes) combined with sufficient cheap green energy generation is one the most viable ways to decarbonize the global economy by 2050. The continuous reduction in LCOEs we’ve observed over the last decade is a significant contributor to this, but so is the application of lessons learned from the early days of wind and solar in Europe and the US.

Sometimes we might have the tendency to think that the future ahead of us is deterministic, i.e. renewables will displace coal, EVs will replace petrol cars, and the planet will avoid a climate disaster. Such deterministic confidence is often a product of hindsight bias and probably highly inaccurate. Hopefully it is a product of our “stubborn optimism” [4] and not complacency.

These positive future outcomes of the world we must create are indeed very much determined by the actions of companies, communities and individuals today, as well as their alignment with the task to narrowly steer away from a global scale climate disaster within our lifetime. The stakes and our responsibility to avoid a climate change disaster could not be any higher.

On Elgar Middleton

Elgar Middleton have been involved in the global transition to a low carbon economy for over 10 years. During this time, we have helped our clients raise over £3.5 billion of senior debt for the financing of renewable generation assets, as well as working on over 50 acquisitions and disposals. Our experience encompasses all the renewables sub-sectors and we assist our clients across Europe and Australia from our London and Sydney offices.

Footnotes

[1] CO2e (equivalent) here will refer not only to C02 emissions equivalents but also include nitrous oxide and methane. In the case of methane, a greenhouse gas 120x more potent than CO2
[2] Period from Q1 2020- Q1 2021
[3] By the year 2050
[4] See “The Future We Choose” by Christina Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

Elgar Middleton completes sale of a commercial rooftop solar portfolio

Elgar Middleton is delighted to have advised Innova Capital on the sale of their commercial rooftop solar portfolio to Octopus Renewables.

Innova Energy (“Innova”), a private equity-backed solar energy company, managed by Innova Capital, has completed the sale of its commercial rooftop solar portfolio to an investment vehicle managed by Octopus Renewables (“Project Astrid”).

The portfolio comprises 57 rooftop-mounted solar PV assets in the UK, representing 3.7MWp of installed capacity, all of which benefit from Feed-in-Tariff government subsidy.

Elgar Middleton Infrastructure and Energy Finance LLP (“Elgar Middleton”) was Innova’s exclusive financial advisor on the transaction.

Innova was also advised on the sale by TLT and PKF Francis Clark. Vendor due diligence was carried out by Morgan La Roche, TLT, RINA and Corylus Planning and Environmental.