On 2 March 2020, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy ("BEIS") announced details of the next round of the Contracts for Difference scheme ("CfD"), one of the few remaining low carbon electricity financial support schemes. Details of the proposed amendments to the scheme are set-out in a consultation paper1, which invites views from stakeholders and interested parties until 22 May 2020.
Press coverage has been focused on ramifications for the UK onshore wind sector, which has been in a period of stagnation following the election in 2015 of the Conservative government and its subsequent planning and policy agenda. The consultation effectively reverses the Government's withdrawal of financial support for certain renewable energy technology types. The renewables sector has broadly welcomed the proposals, which confirm that previously excluded "established technologies" such as onshore wind and solar will be eligible to participate in the 2021 CfD rounds.
How CfD works
CfD guarantees a fixed price for eligible generators of renewable energy. These agreed fixed rates are designed to incentivise generators by de-risking the large upfront investment costs of low-carbon energy infrastructure projects. The proposed changes will impact the fourth CfD allocation round ("AR4"), expected to take place in 2021.
The contracts for difference scheme
- The government's main mechanism for supporting new investment in low-carbon electricity generation. Aims to incentivise investment in renewable energy, by providing developers of projects with high upfront costs and long lifetimes with direct protection from volatile wholesale prices.
- Developers of eligible projects can participate through private law contracts with the Low Carbon Contracts Company ("LCCC")2, which administers the scheme on the Government's behalf.
- Application to the scheme is conducted through submitting a form of ‘sealed bid’. CfDs are allocated in a competitive auction process, therefore, there is no guarantee of participation for eligible technologies.
- Allocation Rounds are conducted every two years where certain renewable technology types (in respective "Pots") compete directly against each other for a contract with the LCCC.
- Developers are guaranteed a minimum indexed rate for the electricity they produce over a 15-year period which is determined by technology type, reflecting the costs of investing ('Strike Price')
- Generators are paid the difference between their Strike Price and the Reference Price (actual prices of electricity) where the Reference Price is lower than the Strike Price, but when the opposite is true, must pay back the difference to the LCCC (protecting consumers from higher prices).