Friday, 24 May 2019

Electric Blue - a new kind of sustainable investment?

Community energy schemes used to be the no-brainer sustainable investment, for people with moderate levels of spare cash that could be tied up for a few years. I personally have investments in one community solar farm, two wind turbines and two renewable energy suppliers. But this year I have added a new string to my sustainable portfolio that does not generate any energy at all: Electric Blue is in the business of installing and managing EV charging facilities in our city streets. This particular bond issue is for a project in Cambridge.

If we are to move over to a zero carbon lifestyle, it is not enough to merely generate renewable electricity. All our energy use has to be carbon free which means switching away from where we use fossil fuels directly to using zero carbon sources instead. If you use a diesel or petrol car this is likely to be a large part of your personal emissions. Fortunately the path to zero carbon for this sector is clear, with rapid growth (albeit from a very low base) in electric cars. Deloitte estimates that we need £1.6 billion investment in charging networks over the next decade, just to meet the current government targets [1], which are arguably not nearly ambitious enough. The target is for 60% of new car sales to be electric by 2030, implying around 11.5 million electric cars on the road [1] - less than a third of the current fleet (38 million as of March 2018 [2]). If we want to transition more quickly to electric vehicles we will need still more charging points.

Electric Blue is advertising this bond issue as a Cambridge project linked to their contract connected to charging points for taxis in Cambridge.  (Cambridge City Council has a policy to have all taxis zero emissions or ultra low emissions by 2028 and they have commissioned charging points to make this possible [3]). However the Electric Blue investment does not quite tick the 'local community' box for me because the security for your investment is the company as a whole. If they expand as planned the Cambridge project will be only a small part of the business. However the business of the company is electric charging infrastructure and their other contracts are likely to be similar; I don't mind supporting charging points elsewhere too.

I am not a financial adviser and am not allowed to recommend any particular investment to you. (I have no insider knowledge either - all I know is from the issue documents.) The main thing I want to suggest is that, if you have some money to invest and want to help mitigate climate change, it is worth looking wider than just renewable energy generation projects, especially as community size ones are thin on the ground since the demise of the Feed in Tariffs. I am also keeping an eye open for opportunities in other areas, perhaps energy storage or district heating.

[1] UK needs £1.6bn EV infrastructure investment by 2030, says Deloitte (Deloitte) May 2019
[2] Vehicle Licensing Statistics to March 2018 (
[3] Electric Vehicle Charging Points (Cambridge City Council)
[4] Rapid chargers for electric taxis up and running in Cambridge (Cambridge City Council) June 2018

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