Last Friday I attended the REM Forum 2017, an event organised by the interesting-sounding "Good Energies Chair for Management of Renewable Energies" at the University of St. Gallen. My main goal was to meet lots of investors interested in my services, but actually I ended up learning a lot about the economics and management of renewable energies too!
In the panel discussion "Investing in renewable energies in a risky policy environment" I mainly learned that investments in renewables, especially in emerging markets, is becoming more and more interesting as traditional power is becoming more difficult to finance and due to the falling costs of capital. The main challenges are finding good projects, dealing with unpredictable policy, getting the new plants permitted and building new grids to cope with the increased capacity.
In the next session, the Zurich Climate Prize was presented. The main prize was won by the Energietal Toggenburg and Wattwil Krinau school for their Sustainable Energy Education in the public schools of Toggenburg. They've published a great book "Globi und die Energie" helping kids and young adults become aware of the issues of energy and climate change! I also discovered that the area of Toggenburg aims to produce 100% of their electricity from renewables by the year 2034 - fascinating!
In the afternoon I attended the workshop "Wind in the sails: reducing the soft cost of wind project development". Soft costs refer to the non-hardware costs such as permitting, installation, wind measurements, environment studies, etc. Here we discussed the situation in the USA, in Switzerland and in Sweden. I couldn't believe that the average planning time for Swiss wind energy projects is 10-15 years whereas in the EU it's about 4-5 years! By the way - in Switzerland they are very proud of the fact that the transport of the V112 blades up to the wind farm at Mount Soleil lead "indirectly" to the development of a new innovation "blade lifter" at Vestas, which allows blades to be lifted over house-tops (see photo below).
Finally, an interesting study from the University of St. Gallen showed how different aspects such as delays in the planning can impact the profitability of the project. I'll be reporting more about this study another day!