The year has seen industry seize the challenges and opportunities offered by decarbonisation.
I am pleased to commend the 2017-18 Annual Report of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
This, our fifth full year of investing, has been amongst our most successful to date.
The CEFC has a clear charter to be a catalyst for investment in and financing of clean energy to achieve the long-term goal of decarbonising the Australian economy. We are a global leader amongst institutions of our type. Our methodology is to seek to crowd in private sector investment and engage capital markets to operate effectively in the private energy sector.
A record $2.3 billion in new investment commitments were made during the year. These investments include marquee projects and highlight that decarbonisation can be achieved profitably and effectively right across the clean energy sector – in renewable energy, energy efficiency, transport and waste-related projects. The types of underlying assets that attract CEFC investment commitments are broad and touch all aspects of our national economy.
This year has seen industry seizing the challenges and opportunities offered by decarbonisation, and accelerating its consideration of emerging duties associated with carbon disclosure. The financial markets have also moved in this regard. The question now is not one of direction, but of pace.
This means the CEFC will continue to have a significant number of opportunities available in its investment pipeline.
The CEFC will also continue to examine market gaps in clean energy investment. In all cases this will be done prudently, seeking to meet the challenging objectives of increasing the flow of finance into the clean energy sector, while achieving a reasonable rate of return on the CEFC’s capital.
AN ENGAGED BOARD
During the reporting period, the then Responsible Ministers the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, and Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann substantively refreshed the Board. Leeanne Bond, Phil Coffey, Laura Reed, Andrea Slattery, Samantha Tough and Nicola Wakefield Evans all joined the Board and I was appointed Chair. These Board changes were phased in over a period of six months between August 2017 and February 2018.
I thank and again acknowledge the service of both the current Board and former Board members Jillian Broadbent AO, Ian Moore, Anna Skarbek, Andrew Stock and Martijn Wilder AM. I note in particular Paul Binsted, who continued to serve after the expiry of his term as an adviser to the Board’s Audit and Risk Committee and to the Australian Government in relation to the Statutory Review.
After the reporting period, changes to the Ministry meant that the Hon Josh Frydenberg ceased to be a Responsible Minister for the CEFC with the Hon Angus Taylor MP and the Hon Melissa Price assuming his portfolio responsibilities.
Minister Frydenberg proved a strong advocate for the work of the CEFC throughout his tenure and I thank him on behalf of the Corporation for his support, advice and interest in the CEFC and its operations.
I would also like to thank Minister Cormann for his continued support, and ongoing interest in the work of the CEFC; and warmly welcome Ministers Taylor and Price to the portfolio.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The CEFC has now made cumulative investment commitments into the clean energy economy of more than $6.6 billion, to projects with a total value of $19 billion.
Importantly, these investments are made up of loans and equity – not grants – and seek to achieve the Australian Government’s cost of funds plus a reasonable margin. Repaid investment principal and retained earnings are available to finance the next cycle of investments. Some $4.7 billion of the CEFC’s original $10 billion in statutory appropriations remains to be invested.
Given the finite amount of the CEFC’s capital ($10 billion plus retained earnings), the run rate at which the capital is being deployed and the timing when loans are due for repayment to the Corporation, the CEFC is reviewing carefully how it might seek to ‘recycle’ some of its assets to ensure there is no significant constraint on its investment capacity.
In doing so, we are examining how potential clean energy investors may gain exposure to some of our loan and equity assets, to step in to some of the CEFC’s partially de-risked positions, and thereby free up capital to enable the CEFC to make new investments.
The scale of Australia’s transition to a decarbonised economy means that the power of markets and private capital must be employed, and it is our role to catalyse that private sector investment.
I thank our staff, our clients and our stakeholders for their continued support, passion and commitment to our work.
Steven Skala AO