Comment: challenge of financing renewable projects

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THE costs of financing ambitious offshore wind projects in Scottish waters – and questions about whether the country can harness the benefits from that potential – have been discussed in detail on day two of Scottish Renewables’ Offshore Wind Conference in Aberdeen.

Views from developers and financiers, presented in a series of plenary sessions (and ubiquitous PowerPoint presentations) showed clearly what the industry must do to progress financially – and how Scotland must ready itself for projects finally getting into the water.

Inside an off-shore wind farm turbine

Inside an off-shore wind farm turbine

In Wednesday’s first session, EDP Renewables’ Tom LoTurco’s claim that an “average” 500MW offshore wind farm requires £1.67bn of investment were examined.

The cash, said Tom, “doesn’t come from one single bank”. In fact, he claimed “we need to bring a series of banks and other organisations to the party” in order to make projects of this scale viable.

Frenchman Clement Weber, of financial experts Green Giraffe, told how Germany’s 288MW (megawatt) Butendiek offshore wind project recorded a world first when pension funds invested some of the €940m build cost while construction risks were still in play. From a UK perspective, Clement added that his company’s view was that the ongoing Electricity Market Reform process “will stimulate the equity market” which funds Britain’s offshore projects: welcome news indeed.

Huge sums at work, then – but, according to wind turbine manufacturer Senvion’s Luke Bridgman, Scotland must up its game to take advantage of the potential port-side benefits of offshore wind projects. He points to the potential of ‘superports’ on the continent, as well as increasingly large ships which look set to lower turbine and tower transport costs, as posing a threat to the establishment of Scottish offshore wind bases.

This year’s conference, which ends today (Weds) has been Scottish Renewables’ busiest ever, with over 900 delegates attending over two days. The industry came to town to talk, and the mood throughout was positive – we’re already looking ahead to our Annual Conference in Edinburgh on March 18 and 19, where all renewables sectors will

be up for debate.

• Lindsay Leask is Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables