This guide includes contributions from some of the most active renewables lawyers in the sector across the globe. What it shows is that the renewables industry remains in a period of major transition. However, the transition itself has changed.
Previously this transition was seen as an ongoing metamorphosis from being an immature, fast-developing sector to being a more mature and stable sector. It was about gaining political and social support for decentralised technologies that were seen as costly and unreliable. It was about technologies that were seen as having fringe impacts on the total capacity of most power sectors. It was also about primarily developed economies catalysing, funding and supporting a nascent industry through subsidies.
Even in the past two years the debate has drastically changed. While the renewables sector remains in transition, the conversation is now about whether countries are developing a sufficiently long and sizeable pipeline of projects to feed the almost insatiable desire of banks, investors and developers to deploy capital and debt in the sector. Bloomberg expects global investment in new renewable energy capacity to reach a staggering US$2.6 trillion by the end of this year. The transition is less about facilitating the sector and more about removing the political and structural barriers to deployment, such as cumbersome consenting processes or moratoria on particular technologies. As renewables rapidly rise to become the most economic way to add new generation capacity in many jurisdictions around the world, the transition even becomes a focus for existing and planned thermal capacity operators, who may seek additional comfort that they will not become stranded assets in an increasingly decarbonised electricity sector.
With the price of renewables being now not only at, but at times, below grid parity (i.e. the wholesale price of power) in many countries, the question of whether the wholesale price of power remains relevant for investment decisions has risen up the agenda. Many electricity markets are struggling to send a sufficient, stable and transparent price signal to allow prudent investment decisions in the desired technologies to be taken. Further, with the electricity sector considered the engine for driving ‘net zero’ ambitions in currently non-decarbonised parts of the wider economy, such as transport and heating, the transition is not about whether renewables are fringe technologies, but whether the renewables ambition is large enough to meet these additional challenges. With renewables targets having been adopted in 168 countries as at the start of 2019, and deployment in developing economies having outstripped that in developed economies since 2015, the sector is transitioning to becoming a truly global industry.