The multiple roles of state investment banks in low-carbon energy finance: An analysis of Australia, the UK and Germany

Low-carbon energy technologies (renewable energy and energy efficiency) are considered essential to achieve climate change mitigation goals, so a rapid deployment is needed. However there is a significant financing gap and many policymakers are concerned that investment for the large-scale deployment of low-carbon technologies will not materialise quickly enough. State investment banks (SIBs) can play a key role in closing this finance gap and leverage additional private finance. Based on 52 interviews, this paper presents empirical evidence on the role of three SIBs in addressing the barriers to financing low-carbon energy projects; the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) in Australia, the Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau (KfW) in Germany and the Green Investment Bank (GIB) in the UK. We investigate the activities and financial instruments offered by SIBs and compare these to the need for such from low-carbon developers when sourcing finance. Findings show that aside from capital provision and de-risking, SIBs take a much broader role in catalysing private investments into low-carbon investments, including enabling financial sector learning, creating trust for projects and taking a first or early mover role to help projects gain a track record.

Written by Anna Geddes, Tobias S. Schmidt and Bjarne Steffen

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Impact assessment of climate policy on Poland’s power sector


This article addresses the impact of the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) on Polands conventional energy sector in 2008 – 2020 and further till 2050. Poland is a country with over 80% dependence on coal in the power sector being under political pressure of the European Unions (EU) ambitious climate policy. The impact of the increase of the European Emission Allowance (EUA) price on fossil fuel power sector has been modelled for different scenarios. The innovation of this article consists in proposing a methodology of estimation actual costs and benefits of power stations in a country with a heavily coal-dependent power sector in the process of transition to a low-carbon economy. Strong political and economic interdependence of coal and power sector has been demonstrated as well as the impact caused by the EU ETS participation in different technology groups of power plants. It has been shown that gas-fuelled combined heat and power units are less vulnerable to the EU ETS-related costs, whereas the hard coal-fired plants may lose their profitability soon after 2020. Lignite power plants, despite their high emissivity, may longer remain in operation owing to low operational costs. Additionally, the results of long-term, up to 2050, modelling of Polands energy sector supported an unavoidable need of deep decarbonisation of the power sector to meet the post-Paris climate objectives. It has been concluded that investing in coal- based power capacity may lead to a carbon lock-in of the power sector. Finally, the overall  costs of such a transformation have been discussed and confronted with the financial support offered by the EU. The whole consideration has been made in a wide context of changes ongoing globally in energy markets and compared with some other countries seeking trans-formation paths from coal. Poland’s case can serve as a lesson for all countries trying to reducecoal dependence in power generation. Reforms in the energy sector shall from the very beginning be an essential part of a sustainable transition of the whole nation’s economy. They must scale the power capacity to the future demand avoiding stranded costs. The reforms must be wide-ranging, based on a wide political consensus and not biased against the coal sector. Future energy mix and corresponding technologies shall be carefully designed, matched and should remain stable in the long-term perspective. Coal-based power capacity being near the end of its lifetime provides an economically viable option to commence a fuel switch and the following technology replacement. Real benefits and costs of the energy transition shall be fairly allocated to all stakeholders and communicated to the society. The social costs and implications in coal-dependent regions may be high, especially in the short-term perspective, but then the transformation will bring profits to the whole society.

Written by Tadeusz Skoczkowski, Sławomir Bielecki, Arkadiusz Węglarz, Magdalena Włodarczak and Piotr Gutowski

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Sociotechnical transition for deep decarbonization

Rapid and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emission are needed to avoid dangerous climate change. This will necessitate low-carbon transitions across electricity, transport, heat, industrial, forestry, and agricultural systems. But despite recent rapid growth in renewable electricity generation, the rate of progress toward this wider goal of deep decarbonization remains slow. Moreover, many policy-oriented energy and climate researchers and models remain wedded to disciplinary approaches that focus on a single piece of the low-carbon transition puzzle, yet avoid many crucial real-world elements for accelerated transitions (1). We present a “sociotechnical” framework to address the multi-dimensionality of the deep decarbonization challenge and show how coevolutionary interactions between technologies and societal groups can accelerate low-carbon transitions.

Written by Frank W. Geels, Benjamin K. Sovacool, Tim Schwanen and Steve Sorrell 

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Vulnerability and resistance in the United Kingdom’s smart meter transition

The Smart Meter Implementation Program (SMIP) lays the legal framework in the United Kingdom so that a smart gas and electricity meter, along with an in-home display, can be installed in every household by 2020. Intended to reduce household energy consumption by 5–15%, the SMIP represents the world’s largest and most expensive smart meter rollout. However, a series of obstacles and delays has restricted implementation. To explore why, this study investigates the socio-technical challenges facing the SMIP, with a strong emphasis on the “social” side of the equation. It explains its two primary sources of data, a systematic review of the academic literature coupled with observation of seven major SMIP events. It offers a history of the SMIP rollout, including a summary of 67 potential benefits as well as often-discussed technical challenges, before delving into pertinent non technical challenges, specifically vulnerability as well as consumer resistance and ambivalence. In doing so, the paper not only presents a critique of SMIP, it also offers a review of academic studies on consumer responses to smart meters, an analysis of the intersection between smart meters and other social concerns such as poverty or the marginalization of rural areas, and the generation of policy lessons.

Written by Benjamin K. Sovacool, Paula Kivimaa, Sabine Hielscher and Kirsten Jenkins

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How economic and social actors can champion CO2 phase-out

Projects funded under the Horizon2020 funding programme contributed to the DG Research and Innovation & EASME coordinated policy session on ‘How economic and social actors can champion CO2 phase-out’ which took place on 22 June in Brussels.

The session was part of the EU Sustainable Energy Week and featured contributions from three EU-funded research projects, which was followed by a panel discussion:

  • INNOPATHS: Innovation pathways, strategies and policies for the Low-Carbon Transition in Europe
  • REINVENT: Realising Innovation in Transitions for Decarbonisation
  • EU-CALC: EU Calculator: trade-offs and pathways towards sustainable and low-carbon European Societies

Prof Paul Ekins, INNOPATHS project coordinator, addressed the following questions during his presentation:

  • Can deep decarbonisation pathways be reconciled with the political objectives of reinvigorating European industries and strengthening economic competitiveness?
  • What does science have to say about the risks and opportunities related to innovation, deployment, financing or public acceptance?

Watch the full presentation below.

INNOPATHS will also contribute to the work of a high-level expert panel, established by the European Commission (DG Research and Innovation), which prepares a report on the research and innovation challenges that will have to be tackled on the way towards the full decarbonisation of the European economy. This report will be published mid-2018.

A copy of the presentation slides are available on the EUSEW2017 website.

Integrating uncertainty into public energy research and development decisions

Public energy research and development (R&D) is recognized as a key policy tool for transforming the world’s energy system in a cost-effective way. However, managing the uncertainty surrounding technological change is a critical challenge for designing robust and cost-effective energy policies. The design of such policies is particularly important if countries are going to both meet the ambitious greenhouse-gas emissions reductions goals set by the Paris Agreement and achieve the required harmonization with the broader set of objectives dictated by the Sustainable Development Goals. The complexity of informing energy technology policy requires, and is producing, a growing collaboration between different academic disciplines and practitioners. Three analytical components have emerged to support the integration of technological uncertainty into energy policy: expert elicitations, integrated assessment models, and decision frameworks. Here we review efforts to incorporate all three approaches to facilitate public energy R&D decision-making under uncertainty. We highlight emerging insights that are robust across elicitations, models, and frameworks, relating to the allocation of public R&D investments, and identify gaps and challenges that remain.

Written by Laura Díaz Anadón, Erin Baker and Valentina Bosetti

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