November 18th, 2010

Walking Transaction Costs


At the New England Clean Energy Council we recently held one of our Finance Series panels on deal structure for clean energy projects, featuring speakers from Goodwin Procter, BlueWave Capital and Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Goodwin’s R.J. Lyman, got a laugh with the line “I’m a walking transaction cost” in reference to the significant cost of hiring lawyers and accountants to assist with project finance.  But it’s more than a laugh line.

My last post discussed a recent think tank white paper on energy innovation that started with the simple premise:

America will make little sustained progress in transforming the U.S. energy economy… until alternatives to conventional fossil fuels become cheaper.

As I discussed in my post, the paper offers several thoughtful recommendations toward this end and there is substantial agreement that increased R&D will be a crucial component in lowering the cost of clean energy over the long term.

But R.J.’s comment makes an important point.  Driving down the cost of clean energy requires more than technological innovation.  The “walking transaction costs” associated with unfamiliar projects can be significant.  Consider a first-of-its-kind project like Cape Wind.

As important as technological innovation is to lowering energy costs, it’s a mistake to neglect the later stages of the innovation lifecycle.  As project financing agreements become more standardized and transaction costs decrease, clean energy becomes a more financially appealing alternative to fossil fuels.  That’s one of many reasons why continued deployment of existing clean energy technologies is essential.

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Walter Frick

About Walter Frick

Walter Frick works for the New England Clean Energy Council, managing the Council’s communications, web presence, and student outreach. Prior to joining the Council, Walter worked for the U.S. Green Building Council, creator of the LEED rating system, in D.C., where he focused on membership recruitment. Before that he worked in Richmond for the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus. In addition to clean energy, Walter is interested in public policy, information and media, and how the web is changing our relationships with each. He is a graduate of Colgate University. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wfrick