The Beam interview series, edition 21: Holger Kraft
CleanTechnica keeps on publishing some of The Beam interviews twice a week. The Beam magazine takes a modern perspective on the energy transition, interviewing inspirational people from around the world that shape our sustainable energy future.
This week Anne-Sophie Garrigou, journalist at The Beam, interviewed Holger Kraft, a lawyer who has specialized in infrastructure and renewable energy for 20 years. Here, Dr. Kraft talks about the European legislation concerning energy, and the impact of big conferences like the COP21 on the legal industry.
How would you define your job as a lawyer in renewable energy?
Working as a lawyer in this sector is fascinating if you like challenges. The renewable energy sector is changing rapidly. This is true for the law and the technology: the subsidies regimes are under constant revision as new solar panels and wind turbines enter the market. As a lawyer you therefore have to adapt to changing legal and economic environments.
There are also a lot of parties involved in a renewable energy project: contractors and suppliers for building the plant, authorities who grant permits, investors and banks to finance. The challenge is to bring them all together so that no piece of the puzzle is missing.
In recent years I was advising a lot of investors during the various stages of a renewable energy project: from the acquisition of project rights to the development and negotiation of contracts until financial close (the final investment decision). My job is it to make sure that my clients understand the chances and risks of the projects they acquire or finance.
What are the three most important things to know about renewable energy law in Europe?
There is no renewable energy law as such in Europe. Each country has a different system for subsidies, permits, grid connection, and so on. Whereas construction contracts and financing contracts are more or less similar all over Europe, regulatory issues differ from country to country. There are of course European directives but they rather work in the background. There is no fully harmonized European law on renewable energies.
This means that for each project in Europe you have to closely examine the regulatory framework: How does the subsidy regime work? What are the risks involved? May it change in the future, maybe even with retroactive effect (for projects completed in the past)? For example in Spain, the government slashed subsidies that were granted in the past. This obviously creates uncertainty and makes investors nervous.
But also in other countries, the law changes constantly. In Germany, the subsidy regime will evolve from a guaranteed feed-in tariff to an auctioning system. The basic idea is that people will bid for a project and the one who offers the lowest price will win it. The government therefore wants to create more competition in the renewable energy market. The days of an infant industry, protected from market forces, are over.