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Survey reveals institutional investors to almost double allocations to renewable energy assets, yet funding gap remains

New report from Octopus reveals the biggest challenges causing institutions to hold back investment in renewables.

Institutional investors plan to almost double portfolio allocations to renewable energy over the next five years. An estimated $210 billion from investors surveyed for a new report launched by Octopus today, is expected to flow into the asset class over the period.

The report, The green investor: why institutional investing holds the key to a renewable energy future, is based on a survey of global institutional investors with a collective $6.8 trillion of assets under management*. It reveals that allocations to renewables will increase from 4.4% to 7.1% over the next five years. Of those institutions currently invested in renewables, more than two-fifths (42%) expect to increase allocations by as much as 10%.

Current market volatility and the perceived end of the market bull run is driving increased allocations to renewable infrastructure. Two-thirds (66%) of renewable energy investors surveyed cite diversification as the main driver prompting them to invest in the sector. This is closely followed by the pursuit of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials, with more than half (58%) of institutions invested in the sector choosing renewables primarily to fulfil ESG criteria. Almost half (48%) cite predictable cash flows as a primary driver into renewable infrastructure.

Yet despite increasing investor appetite for renewables, the report reveals a number of challenges to overcome, to open up additional investment in the sector:

  • Energy price uncertainty: over half of respondents (56%) identify energy price uncertainty as a challenge for them when pursuing investment in renewables.
  • Liquidity issues: two fifths (41%) cite liquidity issues as a challenge.
  • Operating, implementation and execution costs: more than a third (34%) find costs to be a challenge.
  • Lack of scale: a third (34%) find they do not have the size and scale to pursue renewables.
  • Government and regulatory barriers: a third (33%) cite government and regulatory barriers as a challenge to investing. Of those surveyed, the biggest factor that would cause them to increase investment in renewables would be better support and policies from government (52%).

The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates $1.7 trillion of investment is needed between 2015 and 2030 to meet global renewable energy targets to combat climate change. According to Octopus, investment from institutions in renewables will need to increase to deliver this required investment. To drive additional investment these challenges must be addressed.   

Commenting on the report’s findings, Matt Setchell, Co-head of Energy Investments at Octopus, said:

“Institutional investors are waking up to the investment opportunity that comes with securing a renewable future. There is much to celebrate in the report. However, while institutional investors’ contributions are on the increase there remains a long way to go to plug the funding gap. We cannot afford to view increased allocations as ‘job done’. More needs to be done to unblock investment to help tackle climate change. Acting now is not an option; it is a necessity.

 “Our report identifies the key barriers that need to be overcome to enable institutional capital to support a renewables future. Clarity on policy from government; flexible investment opportunities to suit investor needs and skilled managers who are able to identify and offset risks will be crucial to unlocking further institutional investment into the sector.”

Hiti Singh, Head of Institutional Funds at Octopus Group, said:

“Investors are becoming increasingly aware that renewable energy infrastructure combines the opportunity to diversify with the opportunity to fulfil ESG credentials over the long-term. Institutions seeking to invest in longer-term structural trends amid current market uncertainty can find plenty of opportunity in renewables. Renewable infrastructure also supports ESG priorities without compromising returns.

“The biggest driver among those surveyed for pursuing renewables was the opportunity to diversify. We have seen first-hand how the perceived end of the market bull-run and geopolitical risks drive institutions to seek real assets, like renewables.”

To address the funding gap, Octopus has set out a three-point plan for unblocking the institutional investment needed to deliver a renewable future:

  1. Educate investors on underlying risks, particularly energy price uncertainty so that they understand how market fluctuations may impact their returns.
  2. Mitigate risk through a team of specialists that reduce both operational and commercial (energy price) risks alongside using existing scale to benefit investors.
  3. Create more choice by tailoring investments into renewable energy assets to combine assets across technologies, jurisdictions and energy price exposure to fit different risk-return appetite from investors.

Key report findings include:

 Diversification and ESG drive investors to renewables

  • Two-thirds (66%) of respondents say diversification and the opportunity to invest in an asset class that has a low correlation to financial markets are the main drivers to renewables.
  • ESG is the second biggest driver into renewables. Half (58%) of institutions invested in the sector from the survey choose renewables primarily to fulfil ESG criteria.
  • Almost half (47%) of institutions overall from the survey adopt ESG within portfolios as a result of end investor demand. Further, over half (57%) of institutions cite protecting their profile and image as the main rationale for taking ESG into account.

 EMEA is leading the charge with its allocations to renewables

  • Respondents from EMEA have the highest level of current and future allocations to renewable energy assets at 5.8% and 8.4% respectively.
  • Asia falls behind with 3.3% and 6.1% respectively according to the survey.

UK is the preferred location for investment into renewables among survey respondents

  • More than half (55%) of those respondents invested in the sector prioritise investment into renewables in the UK.

Grid-scale solar panel plants are the most popular way to access renewables

  • Half of respondents (43%) currently invest in solar, compared with a third (28%) invested in on-shore wind power plants and off-shore wind power plants respectively.

-Ends-

Notes to editors:

*Fieldwork was conducted by CoreData Research between September and October 2018. The sample includes 100 respondents from the UK, EMEA, Asia and Australia. The respondent pool represents a spectrum of organisations including pension funds, fund of funds, insurance company, strategic investors, family offices and private banks. The total assets under management of the sample is about $6.8 trillion. Respondents were classified into two broad categories according to their current allocations to renewable energy assets – those invested in renewable energy assets (67) and those not invested (33). The size of funds managed ranged from $100m to over $250bn.

This press release is issued by Octopus Investments Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The information contained within this document does not constitute an offer or inducement to participate in a collective investment scheme, alternative investment fund or any other financial product and may not be treated as an offer or inducement in any jurisdiction where such an offer or inducement is against the law, or to anyone to whom it is unlawful to make such an offer or solicitation, or if the person making the offer or solicitation is not qualified to do so. The value of investments, and the income from them, may fall or rise.  The information in this document should not be construed as offering investment or tax advice. Issued: February 2019.