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BlackRock says coal is dead as it eyes renewable power splurge

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    BlackRock says coal is dead as it eyes renewable power

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    BlackRock's Jim Barry says it no longer makes sense to invest in coal. Christopher Pearce
    by Jenny Wiggins
    Australia is "denying gravity" by continuing to encourage coal investments because renewable energy is now competing "head to head" with coal on cost, the global head of BlackRock's infrastructure investment group, Jim Barry, says.

    "It's been amusing sitting back and watching Australia from afar because in effect it's been denying gravity," Mr Barry, who is based in Dublin, told the The Australian Financial Review.

    "Coal is dead. That's not to say all the coal plants are going to shut tomorrow. But anyone who's looking to take beyond a 10-year view on coal is gambling very significantly."

    Mr Barry, who plans to start investing in Australian renewable energy projects, acknowledged it was hard for politicians "not to do something" with resources like coal when they were available, but said he did not think there was "long-term potential" in Indian conglomerate Adani's proposed $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine.

    He said no board directors in the US would make a 30-year commitment to coal.

    Adani has delayed its final investment decision on the controversial Carmichael mine until the Queensland government clarifies how much the Indian company will have to pay in royalties.

    The previous mentality around renewable energy, that it was expensive and "all about subsidies", had now been "turned on its head" as prices, particularly in solar energy, had fallen, Mr Barry said.

    "The thing that has changed fundamentally the whole picture is that renewables have gotten so cheap," he said.

    Australia's "prevarication" on renewables meant it could benefit from lower prices as large-scale renewable energy projects, including battery storage, were developed, he said.

    Global investment in the renewable energy industry has soared to more than $US300 billion annually from just $20 billion just over a decade ago.

    US-headquartered BlackRock, which has more than $US5 trillion of assets under management and claims to be the world's largest investment group, is actively looking for Australian renewable energy investments to add to its new global renewable power fund, which is expected to reach about US$1.7 billion. About 10 per cent of the fund is expected to be allocated to Australia.

    London-based BlackRock director Charlie Reid will move to Sydney at the end of the year to head an Asia-Pacific team focused on renewable power equity investments. It will be the first time that BlackRock, which has previously invested in solar projects in Japan, will have renewable energy specialists based in Australia.

    Beyond renewable energy

    BlackRock has been broadening its overall energy infrastructure portfolio and this year acquired private equity group First Reserve Energy Infrastructure Funds, which manages US$3.7 billion in capital. It will also put people in Sydney or Hong Kong to identify Asian energy investments for First Reserve.

    The investment group prefers to invest in brand-new renewable energy projects or within the first six months of a project's operation, believing it can make more money than by investing in mature assets. Construction of renewable projects was typically "straightforward" and not as complicated or risky as construction of transport projects, Mr Reid said.

    BlackRock is considering equity investments in only renewable energy in Australia but will look for opportunities to acquire longer-dated debt of transport infrastructure, including new toll roads like WestConnex. The NSW government has confirmed it will sell at least 51 per cent of the new Sydney motorway, which is under construction.

    "A toll road that is up and operating is a very attractive infrastructure asset," Mr Barry said. "Typically, it has inflation exposure as well in toll rates which a lot of institutions find useful."

    Mr Barry said Australia would have to plan for the impact of climate change, including higher water levels, and the government needed to resolve uncertainty over how the country was going to meet its 2020 and 2030 emissions targets.

    "It's better for everyone to get that clarity sooner rather than later because it allows for more-functional investment ...w hen you get policy volatility you get very dramatic stop-starts in investment."

    He said he was "bearish" about the pace of emerging opportunities in US infrastructure investment because most infrastructure assets were managed by states, and it would be "a major political task" to shift the status quo and Congress had other priorities, such as healthcare and tax reform.

    But he is "bullish" on electric cars, pointing out that evolving technology for car batteries will improve their performance, and their emergence would hurt demand for oil. "There was always this historic view on oil about peak supply but it's about peak demand being an equal dynamic."

    Read more: http://www.copyright link/business/...e-power-splurge-20170524-gwbuu6#ixzz4iB5CM3xD
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    Last edited by Thesi: 26/05/17
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