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Energy Demand Management – The next big opportunity

Energy Demand Management – The next big opportunity

The rise of Distributed Energy (DE) is acknowledged as an ongoing shift in the way energy is generated, transmitted and consumed. As a result global utility companies and investors alike are monitoring events in the DE market to formulate strategies to benefit from this ongoing shift.

The expansion of DE has been driven by a combination of:

  • Supply: Building more versatile and efficient energy sources
  • Networks: Reducing instability in the grid caused by the increasing volume of renewable power generation
  • Demand: Managing and reducing the economic and environmental impact of inefficient energy consumption

Over recent years there have been increasing opportunities for investment in DE Supply (e.g. solar power generation), in DE Networks, (e.g. grid support projects), and we are now starting to see the development of opportunities in DE Demand Management.
At a high level DE Demand Management is about working with end users to

  • Reduce overall power consumption through improved efficiency (via heating, lighting)
  • Switch power consumption to lower cost (off peak) periods

The demand management opportunity is driven by consumer incentives to reduce energy costs rather than by Government incentives and programmes (as is the case for solar power generation). In addition upcoming Government legislation in 2018 will also require all commercial building owners to hold an energy efficiency certificate (similar to those currently in place for residential properties). These certificates will explicitly provide information in relation to the energy efficiency of the building. Whilst initially buildings are only required to hold the minimum “G” energy rating it is likely that this minimum requirement will be raised over time. As a result, building owners will have a requirement to progressively install energy efficiency solutions. These typically start with high efficiency lighting solutions (such as installing LED lighting) and move into larger initiatives, such as improved insulation, and combining the heat and power elements into a single combined heat and power plant (CHP).

At Oxford Capital we believe one of the best ways to invest in this growing opportunity is through Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) that:

  • Supply the expertise to complete the project, and
  • Finance the cost of capital required

We see variations of the ESCO model within the market, however one of the preferred structures is the Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) model.

Under this model Oxford Capital provides the financing while a third party specialist (typically one of our framework partners) implements the Energy Efficiency initiatives, and guarantees a minimum level of cost savings. It is paramount that we work with third party specialists who have the ability to deliver and support the proposed guaranteed cost savings.

The projects are typically financed over a period of 10 years and are expected to deliver unlevered project returns over 10% annually, which will broaden and diversify the proposed Oxford Capital DE portfolio.

Going forward we feel our DE strategy offers investors an innovative and attractive route to gain infrastructure exposure and Demand Management will be one of the core underlying investment themes.