EMR Update Hedging Your Bets

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1 New Balls Please The UK Government s overarching energy policy intent centres on the need to decarbonise the economy in an affordable manner while maintaining a sufficient degree of energy security. The Department of Energy and Climate Change ( DECC ) estimates this will require 110bn of investment in the electricity sector alone. This quantum of capital is beyond the limits of the Big 6 Vertically Integrated Utility ( VIU ) companies balance sheets and will require wider capital market funding. To meet this challenge the Government has published its Electricity Market Reform ( EMR ) package, designed to incentivise new capital to invest in the sector. The Feed-in Tariffs with Contracts for Difference ( FiT CfD ) support mechanism is the centre piece of the EMR proposals and will be the primary tool for incentivising utility scale low carbon investment in the electricity sector. FiT CfDs will take the place of the Renewables Obligation ( RO ), the current support mechanism for large scale renewables, to give investors confidence and certainty when financing low carbon electricity generation. In August 2013 DECC published further details on the draft contract terms it will offer investors under the proposed FiT CfDs. In this brief we investigate how the risks and rewards under the proposed CfD support mechanism compare and contrast with the current Renewables Obligation ( RO ) system. After a decade of the RO investors are now generally comfortable with its particular risk characteristics. In contrast, the new Contracts for Difference ( CfD ) support mechanism represents a completely new set of risks and it is not yet clear how this policy will measure up in practice. CfDs will replace the RO system in 2017 after running in parallel from late 2013, allowing for a period of cross over in which investors can choose which support mechanism to register their projects under. Given this choice it is important to fully appreciate the different characteristics of each support mechanism and what this means in terms of exposure to risk and project value. Jones Lang LaSalle Renewable Energy Capital team has recently published some research for Infinergy, which compares expected values and returns under the two mechanisms for a consented onshore wind project. Our analysis concluded that while it is widely anticipated CfDs will drive a lower cost of capital, the key question is how much lower? To answer this it is important to fully understand the risk profile associated with the new CfD regime and how this will measure up to investors expectations. The CfD support mechanism is a 15 year contract with fixed terms providing greater long term certainty to investors. Contracts will be made available by a Government backed CfD counterparty to all qualifying low carbon generation projects and work by stabilising revenues. Generators will enter into a contract with the government backed counterparty, which will pay (or receive) the difference between a fixed strike price and a variable reference price as illustrated in figure 1. Figure 1: Contracts for Difference The strike price will initially be set administratively by the Government but the intention is to move to a competitive price discovery process once it is feasible to do so. The reference price will be set through the market using appropriate indices based upon actual, auditable trades. COPYRIGHT JONES LANG LASALLE CORPORATE FINANCE LTD All Rights Reserved 1

2 Comment: While CfDs have been designed to limit price risk and provide certainty to investors in reality the devil is in the detail and it is clear there are new risks to consider relating to both the allocation process and CfD contract terms. Apples and Pears Market risk refers to the losses investors may encounter due to changes in market prices or the value of the underlying support mechanism. Under the RO projects are fully exposed to long-term wholesale power prices but only exposed to limited variability in the value of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). The wholesale power price is dictated by the interaction of supply and demand forces in the GB market while the value of ROCs is derived from the fixed buyout price and to a lesser extent the variable ROC recycle value (typically 10% of the buyout price). To limit their exposure to market risk generators typically enter a Power Purchase Agreement ( PPA ) offtake to lock in the value of a project s revenue streams for a specified time period. The terms and duration of the PPA will vary depending on project requirements and investor preferences. However, where a project wishes to secure project finance the lending community will typically insist on a long term PPA with an element of fixed or floor price protection. The nature of the CfD mechanism provides generators with greater long term price certainty, albeit without electricity price upside. This will reduce market risk associated with investing in low carbon generation under CfDs but questions remain as to how the PPA market will evolve to cater for this new support mechanism. Unknowns include PPA tenor, associated imbalance charges and discounts applied on market prices. Comment: While the CfD proposals mitigate price risk it is not yet clear how the PPA market will evolve over the long term to provide independent generators with the type of PPA they require to secure project finance on acceptable terms. True North Basis risk refers to the risk the reference price is not reflective of the actual market price available to generators in the market place. Under CfDs the reference price for baseload generation will be calculated on forward season indices that include actual and auditable trades. In contrast the reference price for intermittent technologies will be linked to the GB market hourly day ahead price published on specific market indices. Under CfDs there is a risk the reference price does not reflect market prices actually available from offtakers. This eventuality would seriously undermine the CfD mechanism and alter investors views on project value. This eventuality is not inconceivable given historically limited trading on the two constituent auction platforms in the GB market. To limit exposure to basis risk we feel additional measures may be required to boost liquidity and increase price transparency in the market place. A second basis risk to consider relates to how the reference price interacts with the strike price and specifically how the offtaker s intermediary charges are calculated. Under the RO offtakers typically apply a discount on the amounts paid to generators to compensate them for the various costs and associated risks they absorb in the process of buying and selling power in the market. Under CfDs offtakers will continue to provide these services, however, it is not yet clear how their charges will be calculated and whether they will be based on the variable reference price or the fixed strike price. Comment: It is very important the reference price is representative of actual prices available to generators in the market place. This may require further efforts by the Government to boost liquidity and encourage price transparency in the market place. COPYRIGHT JONES LANG LASALLE CORPORATE FINANCE LTD All Rights Reserved 2

3 Walking on Water Liquidity risk refers to the risk the generator will not be able to sell power in the market or monetise value from the support mechanism due to a lack of counterparties willing to buy. Under the RO liquidity risk resides with the generator, who is required to source a suitable counterparty to sell both power and ROCs in the market. Generators typically enter into a PPA contract with an offtaker with an investment grade credit rating and an enduring presence in the GB energy market. Both short and long term PPAs are available from offtakers albeit on varying terms reflective of the particular characteristics of the PPA, the respective offtakers appetite for risk and the underlying financing requirements. Liquidity risk is accepted by generators and is generally perceived as low since licensed suppliers are legally obligated to source green electricity to satisfy their RO obligations. However, concerns have recently been raised about the state of the PPA market in light of evidence that terms being offered by historical providers of long term PPAs have deteriorated over the last five years. This has consequently impacted the ability of independent renewable generators to secure long term limited recourse debt finance to fund their projects. Given the PPA market under CfDs does not have to provide fixed or floor price protection to generators we anticipate liquidity should improve in this respect. Nevertheless, we note it is not yet clear how the PPA market will evolve in the future with a move to CfDs. Generators seeking project finance will still need to secure long term PPAs to provide a guaranteed offtake solution and insulate the project from uncertain imbalance costs. In this respect the removal of the obligation on electricity suppliers to purchase green certificates increases the risk that a project will not be able to secure a bankable route to market. Without competitive tension in the PPA market, particularly for long term PPAs, there is the risk that projects will struggle to secure a bankable PPA. To address this risk the Government is considering introducing a PPA provider of last resort to ensure projects are not left stranded although it is not yet clear in what circumstances and on what terms these PPAs will be provided. Comment: CfDs will mitigate the need for fixed and floor price mechanisms required by the lending community. However, the removal of the obligation on suppliers to purchase ROCs may further dent the competitiveness of the PPA market. In this respect it will be important for the Government to include further measures to encourage competition in the PPA market and flesh out its proposals for a PPA provider of last resort. Man on Wire Balancing risk refers to the risk that actual electricity output generated does not match forecast output. Imbalance charges are a material concern for offtakers as increasing amounts of intermittent generation is connected to the grid. Under the RO offtakers absorb this risk on behalf of generators given they have the ability and capacity to trade electricity directly in the market. Under CfDs offtakers should continue to absorb balancing risk on behalf of generators but we expect that pricing this risk will become increasingly challenging over the longer term. The uncertain nature of future imbalance costs may restrict the depth and breadth of PPAs on offer in the market place especially over the year time period. To ensure this does not adversely affect a generator s ability to secure project finance the government will need to work with both offtakers and the lending community to ensure bankable PPAs are readily available in the market. Comment: Balancing risk will continue to be borne by the offtaker but the prospect of higher imbalance charges in future is likely to limit the availability of long term PPAs. COPYRIGHT JONES LANG LASALLE CORPORATE FINANCE LTD All Rights Reserved 3

4 Jumping through Hoops Eligibility risk is the risk a project will not qualify for support under the relevant support mechanism. Under the RO projects only secure their entitlement to ROCs following full project commissioning. In contrast, under CfDs projects will be able to qualify for support earlier, at the final investment Decision ( FID ) assuming technology specific eligibility criteria has been met and the project has a valid planning permission and accepted a grid connection offer. Where there are no restrictions in place on the number of CfDs being granted eligibility risk under CfDs is considered broadly comparable to under the RO. However, once 50% of the CfD budget has been allocated in a particular period the administrator will look to move from a first come first served allocation system to constrained allocation rounds in which generators will be able to submit sealed bids setting out the strike price they are prepared to accept. This will increase eligibility risk for marginal projects and will likely mean lower strike prices available for generators. Once a project becomes eligible for a CfD there is a further risk the CfD contract will be withdrawn should the project not meet specific delivery criteria set out in the CfD contract. The delivery criteria in the CfD contract are defined through a financial commitment milestone, a target commissioning window and a longstop date. Both the target commissioning window and longstop date are technology specific but it remains to be seen whether this one size fits all approach will incentivise timely delivery without impacting on risk perceptions. The good news is there is significant headroom for the foreseeable future and constrained allocation will only come into play when critical mass schemes come forward such as nuclear or Round 3 offshore wind). Comment: The key component of the eligibility risk facing generators revolves around the cancellation of a CfD contract should it not meet its investment and construction timetable. As such it will be important to caveat legitimate claims to ensure developers are protected against situations beyond their control. Only if the Shoe FiTs Sizing risk is the risk the required capacity of the project is not built out as specified in its CfD. Under the CfD draft framework the Government initially looked to insert a requirement for a project to build out at least 95% of target capacity by the longstop date. This requirement has now been lowered to c.70% of the original target capacity, albeit with strings attached. In its Contract and Allocation Overview the Government indicated only part of this additional flexibility will be available without incurring an adjustment to the strike price on offer. The Government s latest position suggests a developer will be entitled to two 5% mutually exclusive cost free capacity adjustments. The first capacity adjustment window will occur at the Substantial Financial Commitment Milestone on a use or lose basis, while the second will be at the Longstop Date. In the event the developer wants to adjust capacity beyond this they will suffer a lower strike price up to the 70% limit. Comment: the increased sizing bandwidth available to developers in the revised CfD contract reduces the risk of losing the CfD completely but does not entirely exempt a project from sizing risk. In this respect it will be important to quantify the impact of any changes to the strike price beyond the cost free allowance to understand fully the sizing risk implications. Collateral Damage Credit risk refers to the risk the CfD counterparty will not be able to make payments as agreed under the CfD contract. Under the RO generators typically sell power and ROCs via a PPA to an offtaker with a suitably robust credit rating. Under this arrangement the generator takes on the risk of the offtaker defaulting on its payments. In contrast under the COPYRIGHT JONES LANG LASALLE CORPORATE FINANCE LTD All Rights Reserved 4

5 CfD the generator will contract with a government backed CfD counterparty under a private law contract, reducing the risks of insolvency. However, the pay when paid principle underpinning the feedback mechanism for payments to generators does expose them to late and non-payment risk should insufficient funds be collected by the licensed electricity suppliers acting on behalf of the CfD counterparty. This risk is partly mitigated by the loss mitigation provisions included in the CfD mechanism but may still impact on investors attitudes to risk. A second consideration concerning credit risk is the requirement for generators to post collateral with the CfD counterparty when the reference price is higher than the strike price. This will create increased cashflow pressures on generators so it will be important to ensure it is feasible in practice. Under the latest CfD contract proposals generators will be able to provide letters of credit as collateral to the CfD counterparty until the relevant CfD balancing payment falls due. This will help generators manage any residual cashflow pressure given they will be able to pay any amounts due only once they have been paid by their respective offtaker. Comment: Credit risks relating to the solvency of the CfD counterparty are low but some consideration needs to be given to the timing of payments between licensed electricity suppliers, the CfD counterparty and generators to ensure all parties are able to pay their obligations as they fall due. Yes Yes Yes No Change in law risk is the risk a change in law impacts on a project s profitability. Under the RO there is no recourse for generators should there be a change in law affecting the value of a low carbon project. RO eligible projects do, however, benefit from the Government s policy on grandfathering. In contrast the CfD is structured as a private law contract with provisions governing compensation in the event of a change in law in certain circumstances. This will provide developers with greater certainty over their rights and obligations than they would have if the scheme was governed solely by regulation. In particular there are provisions in the CfD contract covering general changes in law that have discriminatory effect and which lack objective justification. This has been updated since the draft heads of terms were published and will provide better protection against change in law risk. In addition the wording surrounding foreseeable changes in law has been tightened up which should further help reduce risk in this area. Comment: The revised CfD structure provides more protection from change in law risks than the initial draft. In particular provisions covering general changes in law will ensure projects are not indirectly affected by discriminatory changes to their operating environment. Same Again Refinance risk is the risk that a project cannot be refinanced further down the line. Under the RO banks are generally comfortable lending under RO mechanism although they only tend to provide terms for between 7 to 10 years even though the debt is often sized over a longer 15 year period. Under the draft CfD terms the Government had proposed introducing refinancing clauses, which would have reduced strike prices in the event particularly high returns were realised once a project had undertaken a successful refinancing. Following a period of consultation the government has pulled back from this approach and now recognises this may create upfront barriers to certain forms of investment. This is a welcome development given the importance of capital recycling and the impact these clauses would have on investor investment appetite. Comment: The government s revised position on refinancing is a sensible one given the importance of capital recycling in the market. COPYRIGHT JONES LANG LASALLE CORPORATE FINANCE LTD All Rights Reserved 5

6 The Policy Maker s Daughter Finally political and regulatory risk is the risk of unexpected Government or regulatory intervention associated with changes in political conditions that affect legislation and business regulations for generators. Under the RO the government has adopted the policy of Grandfathering support to renewables projects. The Government s policy on Grandfathering is that the level of RO support which a generator receives is fixed for that project and will not reduce in any subsequent banding review. While the Government has implemented multiple changes to RO banding rates in light of falling technology and installation costs they have consistently grandfathered historic projects. Under CfDs the government has said it will continue to commit to the principle of Grandfathering via the provisions laid out in the private law CfD contract between CfD counterparty and generator. However, to ensure this intention translates into reality it will be important to create a robust, transparent and evidence based process for any future amendments to strike prices. Comment: Renewables support continues to create political divides particularly on the backbenches so it will be important to create a robust, transparent and evidence based process for any future amendments to strike prices. MISREPRESENTATION ACT COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER COPYRIGHT JONES LANG LASALLE IP, INC All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent of Jones Lang LaSalle. It is based on material that we believe to be reliable. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, we cannot offer any warranty that it contains no factual errors. We would like to be told of any such errors in order to correct them. 6

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