Disclaimer: This article is published in partnership with Siemens. Siemens is paying for my engagement, not for promotional purpose. Opinions are my own.
Siemens Smart Infrastructure offers many different solutions to achieving this change at the energy grid edge. Recently, to amplify this, they have been holding a conference over two days entitled “the grid edge summit“.
The Grid Edge Summit
You can still register here as the event is available for some time to view and explore. It would help in understanding their solutions if you visited their different energy topic areas. Here Siemens offers you a significant range of choices, solutions and advice on Grid Edge topics to give you time to check out some of the #GridEdge tech & solutions.
These topics and solutions are organized under decarbonization and sustainability, distributed energy solutions, the integration of renewable energy resources, mobility charging, and the consulting and financing solutions available to utilize. The main conference event is a series of talks and panels exploring the topics above.
One panel I particularly enjoyed was “Financing Decarbonization.”
Why did I specifically enjoy this panel? Firstly, three really knowledgeable panellists within the Siemens Financing team provided different perspectives and experiences.
Let me offer some background before the panel perspectives that I took away.
First, one of the major inhibitors of the energy transformation is the inability to raise finance. Clearly, societies can reap multiple benefits from investing in clean energy and modernizing energy systems and strengthening energy networks through upgrades to equipment, shifting energy sources, or implementing a digitalization programme for improved efficiencies and effectiveness.
The essential investments for energy efficiency, electrification via greener buildings, replacing ageing equipment or retrofitting existing assets are massive opportunities. But, equally, as we roll out new technologies or building new infrastructure for electric vehicle charging, investment becomes the key.
So often, the private sector waits for the Government to lead the way. Yet, an unprecedented increase in clean energy spending required has repercussions of delaying the pathway to Net-Zero. Electricity consumption in both emerging and developing economies is set to grow around three times the rate of advanced economies brings scale, scope but real financial challenges.
Mobilizing capital needs to progress at a much larger scale, and the role of the private sector will be critical to catalysing investment. Today, many banking and financial institutions are struggling to provide financial instruments or equate equity and debt risks as they are less familiar with new technologies or lack the proven risk/ return profiles.
Against this “bigger picture” background, I wanted to determine what Siemens Financial Services provides through specific packages related to the Siemens Smart Infrastructure side.
When you start with the classic “there is much to be done“, you immediately get a sense of what stage the “industry” of financing energy is presently at—the early stage of building the understanding and business cases for financing the energy transition specific projects.
The panel started by summarizing, “What is motivating businesses to decarbonize?”
The pressure’s building, from society, from governments, from international agreements for building the appetite to change the existing operations or facilities. Decarbonizing provides those essential credentials of being responsible, attracting financial investors to prepare for future legislation coming down the road. Replacing ageing assets with more efficient and environmentally friendly ones is a financial burden. Still, financing packages help move towards more economic competitiveness if the efficiency and effectiveness of the change are well worked through.
The specific drivers of decarbonization can vary, but these fall under four broad headers in the panels’ opinion. First, the overwhelming need is to reduce energy use in your operations and facilities, secondly to procure green energy from renewable sources and reduce the CO2 footprint across the entire value chain gives real future value. Thirdly, to equip sites with a decentralized energy approach in storage, solar generation reduces dependencies and potentially smooth out price and energy demand to meet your specific needs. Finally, fourth to get to a 100% carbon neutral point.
Matching ambition with financial prudence
To take on new equity or debt needs the consideration of many parties and balancing out all the projects needing business or public institution attention. For example, energy is often not the business’s core; the product or service is. The building or plant are assets needed to produce or deliver those products and services. That core needs consistent investment in upgrading equipment, continuing the digitalization upgrades, upgrading employee skills and learning, etc.
The list of financial demands goes on and on. We have all been in meetings on budgets where the jockeying for money or resources takes up time and energy. So somewhere down the list is finding money for switching energy, improving building efficiencies or shifting to different approaches when the existing ones seem presently adequate.
It is against this competing background the financier of energy system change has to compete. Municipalities, universities, schools, hospitals have to consider the society they serve, show prudence on spending public money and think of budgets as always in very tight situations. For commercial or industrial customers, shareholders or financial providers are constantly looking at the effectiveness of the “spend” against the return of increased sales or improvements in the bottom line.
The balancing of budget allocation, Opex and Capex, cash flow and risk management are the decision pain points that the energy financial provider must find answers to.
Three approaches to bringing energy change and decarbonization to realization.
Siemens are a renowned technology provider. To sell new solutions needs a buyer willing to listen. Having financial options within the same room does make for a different selling/ financing proposition.
New technology is built on extensive research and testing. Existing solutions that have been tried and tested for many years builds a clear reputation and narrows choice. Any customer nearly always wishes to have the latest solutions, the best configurations or ways to optimize and maximize what they have. Therefore, solution providers are essential partners if they want to grow and sustain the mutual business over time.
Siemens are clear on their sustainability pathways.
The fostering of collaborations over time becomes an ecosystem of mutual dependence. To add financing solutions as possible solutions adds to the strengthening of these ecosystems. The panel outlined financial solutions around three broad approaches.
- Customer financed projects where milestone payments are agreed during any implementation period and performance and saving guarantees built-in from the Siemens perspective to bring a mutual financing package from a phasing recognizing financial constraints in each project or customer circumstance with the return value flowing in from the performance improvements and saving offsets overtime periods agreed between the parties.
- Deferred payment performance contracts structured similarly to the 1st but clearly an option considered perhaps due to greater financial constraints.
- Energy-as-a-service. This is rapidly taking hold where pre-defined service payments, saving, and cash flow positive methods are worked through over agreed times. The asset stays off the customer’s books, and ownership is with Siemens until the contractual terms have been achieved. The asset ownership versus cash flow payments has clearly high engagement of accountants and auditors here.
So, each customer has different financial pain points.
These pain points could be public or private budgetary concerns on where to spend the limited money. The considerations need to balance multiple investment projects with different financing options, the recognition that energy or asset use and the cost is getting close to being inefficient, or an escalation in operating costs. Then you are faced with the decisions to take any new costs either on the balance sheet vs the P&L.
Consideration to reduce these pain points can also include the need for fiscal flexibility in extensive upgrading of infrastructure demands to overset changing market conditions (switch of energy fuels or automation changes) or changing demands in regulatory or environmental needs. Or simply the inability to take on more upfront capital burdens, restricted options to create new revenue on existing approaches, or have multiple locations needing solutions that become financially restrictive.
The panel provided some great examples of how they looked at individual needs and addressed challenges collaboratively with what I feel is the underlying tenant of “Siemens as your partner”. Having the technology to solve the issues and reduce the worries over bringing equipment, infrastructure or solution into ones that move the decarbonization pathway along in more efficient and effective ways, through imaginative financial mechanisms, gives the supply and buyer real options.
You will gain a good understanding from this one hour panel of considering financial options.
Clearly, as financial packages or instruments continue to get defined in the decarbonization of the energy system to bring about change, financial institutions and banks will recognize and accelerate their provider value. Large infrastructure projects are clearly different from individual ones to be scoped, agreed and implemented.
Siemens Financial Services helps with the speeding up to low-carbon technology solutions with a pragmatic approach to encourage switching, creating savings as the primary result, integrating with the existing or partnering in the new, and finally supporting the speeding up transition in our Energy Systems that is undergoing such a massive transition in the next decades.
This was a good panel to gain a sound understanding of financing options that Siemens provide. I recommend it.
You can still register here as the Grid Edge event is available for some time to view and explore.
Main Siemens Financial Services link:
Grid Edge Summit link page to Finance solutions and background (need to register for this)
Siemens Smart Infrastructure: