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Guest Column: Leaps and Bonds

Excerpt from a guest column by John Cusack on, April 2012. Marylhurst University is a sponsor.

Sustainable energy projects are growing by leaps and bounds for several reasons. First, a number of countries and states have set strict goals for the future share of energy from renewable sources, typically around 20% in many US states, and up to a goal of 100% renewable energy in countries like Denmark. The question that arises is how do you finance these projects, especially when in some parts of the world fossil fuels are still very price effective due to direct and indirect government subsidies and credits, and when the financial markets still perceive these projects as "risky" investments.

One of the ways the financial world is looking to finance sustainable energy is through moving from an equity-based investment model to a "green bonds" debt model. Why is this happening? Sustainable energy projects tend to be capital intensive, but with low operating costs and zero fuel cost risks. However, once the projects are up and running, the permitting and development risks end and these new projects start producing long-term consistent positive cash flows. The private equity owners are then looking to re-finance the operating wind and solar energy farms by selling "green" bonds with fixed returns to replace their equity capital, and then reinvesting that equity capital in more new wind and solar energy project development efforts.

Of course, the most efficient form of renewable energy is energy efficiency, and innovative ways of financing this form of sustainable energy are also emerging.

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