SEF Weekly: $369bn US clean energy package and energy interconnection


In this edition of Smart Energy Finance (SEF) Weekly, the US Senate is set to pass a new clean energy bill that boasts $369 billion into clean energy and energy security.

Additionally, an AI-powered inspection platform bolsters electric asset health maintenance, Elia Group illustrates expedited energy transition investments and a politically charged interconnector reaches financial closure.

$369 billion into US energy security and clean energy programmes

In a historic move, Sen. Joe Manchin stated that he had reached a deal with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on a budget reconciliation package. Part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, this package allocates $369 billion for energy security and clean energy programmes over the next 10 years.

As covered by Power-Grid International, the extensive energy investment is seen as the most ambitious climate and clean energy package in history.

The funding includes: new investment tax credit for standalone energy storage; electric vehicle tax credits, including the current $7,500, which will continue until the end of 2032, and a new $4,000 for used EVs; extension of residential and utility-scale solar tax credit; and domestic solar manufacturing.

In a statement on Thursday, July 28, 2022, US President Biden said about the energy investment: “This investment in environmental justice is real. It also provides tax credits that will create thousands of good-paying jobs — manufacturing jobs on clean energy construction projects, solar projects, wind projects, clean hydrogen projects, carbon capture projects and more — by giving tax credits for those who build these projects here in America.”

Listen to the FactorThis! podcast episode about the package and the industry’s response

AI-powered asset inspection gains $3mn for grid reliability

Noteworthy AI, which provides AI-powered asset inspection and inventory analysis solutions for energy distribution grid operators, has announced closure for $3 million in funding to bolster its electric distribution asset inspection solutions.

Noteworthy’s solution, Inspector, employs a combination of vehicle-mounted cameras, computer vision and edge processing devices that enable electric utilities to inspect distribution assets at-scale. According to the solutions provider, this is done while reducing operations and maintenance costs by up to 7%.

Leveraging utility fleet vehicles on the road, the system automatically geolocates utility poles, produces imagery and point cloud data and passes these through machine learning models to detect pole-top components, defects and more.

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Norteworthy states how the technology directly addresses the need for grid reliability, resiliency and safety in light of increased demand for electricity and extreme weather events that put deteriorating distribution grids at risk.

By reducing inspection costs, the solution is hoped to enable utilities to increase the frequency of pole inspections while identifying problem areas that require maintenance.

Investors that joined the round include Earthshot Ventures, Techstars, Connecticut Innovations, Susquehanna Foundation, Keiki Capital, Boro Capital, C2 Ventures, Avesta Fund, Asymmetry Ventures, City Light Capital and Climate Capital.

Elia Group’s €623.6mn energy transition investment ahead of schedule

The Belgian TSO has announced in its Q2 release that its extensive grid investments – €203.9 million ($207.1 million) in Belgium and €419.7 million ($426.4 million) in Germany – are progressing ahead of plans.

According to the TSO, the investments reflect their different projects currently underway to enhance grid resilience and energy security within the respective countries.

Two key projects in Belgium include the Boucle de L’Est and Mercator-Bruegel projects, aiming to reinforce the country’s energy supply security. For Germany, the investments have been funnelled into new on- and offshore substations, helping to provide the region with a secure and reliable supply of renewable electricity.

On the announcement, Chris Peeters, CEO Elia Group, stated: “Looking back at the first half of the year, the geopolitical context dominated societal debate in Europe. Both in Belgium and Germany, our teams have worked hard on short-term measures to maintain security of supply during the coming winter and on structural measures to accelerate the energy transition.”

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First UK-German interconnector reaches financial close

Work is to begin later this year on the Neuconnect project, a new interconnector between the UK and Germany, two of Europe’s largest energy markets, for the first time.

The £2.4bn/€2.8bn ($2.9bn) project – a vital new energy link between two of Europe’s largest energy markets – is hoped to the way for work to start later this year on the first direct link between the UK and German energy markets.

Led by global investors Meridiam (France), Allianz Capital Partners on behalf of Allianz insurance companies (Germany) and Kansai Electric Power (Japan), NeuConnect is a privately-financed interconnector – following significant interest from the international financial community.

NeuConnect will begin early works later this year on what will become one of the world’s largest interconnector projects at 725km in length. NeuConnect will be operational by 2028, helping to deliver:

NeuConnect’s investors meet with UK Energy Minister Greg Hands and German Ambassador to the UK Miguel Berger to mark Financial Close milestone. Courtesy NeuConnect

Greater energy resilience, security of supply and consumer benefits

NeuConnect will form an ‘invisible energy highway’ with subsea cables allowing up to 1.4GW of electricity to flow in either direction between the UK and Germany, enough to power up to 1.5 million homes over the life of the project.

It will help to deliver a more secure and resilient energy supply, with independent analysis showing the project will create over £1.7bn in UK consumer benefits over 25 years.

CO2 reduction

According to Neuconnect, by integrating renewable energy sources in the UK and Germany, independent analysis shows that the project could deliver a net reduction in carbon emissions of over 13MtCO2 over 25 years.

NeuConnect Britain Ltd was first established in 2018 and in just 4 years, has progressed from a newly set-up company to reaching Financial Close on one of the world’s largest interconnector projects. A summary of key milestones achieved on the NeuConnect project over the last 4 years is available here.

The NeuConnect interconnector will see two new substations built on the Isle of Grain in Kent, England and the Wilhelmshaven region in Lower Saxonia, northern Germany, connected by over 700km of subsea cables travelling through British, Dutch and German waters.

Works will start on site in the UK and Germany later this year, with major construction to lay subsea cables and build substations starting in 2023.

The project reached financial close with a consortium of more than 20 national and international banks and financial institutions, including the Allied Irish Banks (AIB), Bank of China, Siemens Financial Services through Siemens Bank and the UK Infrastructure Bank among others.