UK slips to lowest position ever in EY's renewables attractiveness index

The U.K.’s rapidly diminishing status as a collegiate member of the European club has been starkly laid out this week in the latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI), compiled by global assurance provider Ernst & Young (EY).

While the majority of Europe’s largest nations saw their INDEX ranking improve, the U.K. bucked the trend, slipping to 14th place after a series of swingeing cuts, regressive policy alterations, and the decision to greenlight the Hinkely Point nuclear plant served to seriously shake confidence in the country’s renewable energy sector. Since removing the renewable obligation certificate (ROC) for solar in April, and the reduction of the FIT, installation rates have fallen sharply from more than 800 MW in March to just 16 MW in July.

The uncertainty cast by June’s vote to leave the EU has certainly had an additionally malign impact in the eyes of many, prompting as it did unprecedented upheaval in the British government that resulted in the dismantling of the flawed-but-focused Department of Energy & Climate Chance (DECC).

"Continued uncertainty around the U.K. government’s energy policy has created a confusing picture for investors seeking a low-risk return," said EY’s global power and utilities corporate finance leader and RECAI chief editor Ben Warren.

"With one more big decision, this time on the future of untested tidal lagoon technologies, expected in the coming months, the government clearly believes that easy-to-deploy and cost-efficient technologies such as onshore with and solar PV are not the answer to the U.K.’s energy security conundrum."

Elsewhere in Europe, however, the story is a little rosier for renewables. France moved from 8th to 7th place in the Index following its decision to introduce a 3 GW solar PV tender over the next three years and the commencement this week of its 1,000km solar roadway.

There was progress too for Belgium (18th), Sweden (20th), Ireland (30th), Norway (32nd) and Finland (35th) where various progressive policies have sweetened the renewables investment climate, not least the $2.3 billion undersea tunnel between Norway and Germany that offers immense wind-hydro storage opportunities.

Germany, meanwhile, stood firm in an unchanged global top five that once again comprised the U.S., China, India and Chile.

Despite European nations largely heading in the right direction, their overall positions in the index still leave, ostensibly, a lot to be desired. Warren said that this is largely due to the inflexibility that exists in European power markets when compared to emerging markets.

"Europe’s greatest hurdle is integrating renewables with historically centralized conventional power generation," Warren said. "It began to look like European countries were scaling back their renewables ambitions as a result but, in recent months, we’ve seen promising new programs materialize around the continent."

The Index finds that Europe has enjoyed a feverish renewables investment market so far this year, marked last month by the 100 GW cumulative solar PV capacity milestone. And since 2007, investment in European renewable energy green bonds has reached $54.9 billion, EY reports, which far surpasses the $19.8 billion invested in green bonds in North America and the $4.5 billion in Asia.

"The green bond market is enabling corporates, banks and development finance institutions to tap into enormous demand among investors for clean energy projects," Warren continued. "In the last few years, we’ve seen significant growth in green bonds sold by issuers with plans to direct proceeds to environmental ends.

"Green bonds currently serve to refinance existing projects for issuers and tick a box on the corporate responsibility agenda for investors. The ideal future state will see these financing vehicles used to bring new renewables projects to life."