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Coal assets aren’t going away, but renewable-energy infrastructure ones are seeing the welcome mat in Oslo.
That’s the latest news on Norway’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, according to Bloomberg on April 5. Specifically, the fund is tightening its ban on coal assets, while opening up to unlisted renewable-energy infrastructure ones.
To achieve the first part, the fund plans to enforce absolute caps on production of thermal coal, used to generate electricity, for such large mining and energy companies as Anglo American Plc, BHP Group Ltd., Glencore Plc, RWE AG and Uniper SE.
The Norwegian fund’s practice has been to hold onto “the current rules excluding companies that base more than 30% of their revenues or activities on coal, while adding absolute limits of 20 million tons of coal for miners and 10,000 megawatts for power capacity,” wrote Bloomberg. However, there exists a loophole that allows the fund to stay invested in a noncompliant company if the company has plans to adhere later. It’s unclear whether that practice will apply to the tightened restrictions, noted Bloomberg.
Opening up to renewable energy investments perfectly suits the country’s environmentalists and some politicians who believe Norway and its fund are too dependent on fossil fuels, according to the Financial Times. They have lobbied the Conservative government for years to add renewable energy as an asset class to the fund.
However, Siv Jensen, Norway’s finance minister, said in a press release that the move to bring in the new asset class isn’t a “climate change measure, but it is part of the investment strategy,” and any new assets will be vetted by Norway’s central bank the Norges Bank, which Jensen said will take a “gradual approach.” Investments in the new asset class can now total about $13 billion, rather than half the amount previously allowed, according to the fund’s website.
“The market for renewable energy is growing rapidly,” added Jensen. “A major part of the renewable energy investment opportunities is found in the unlisted market, especially in unlisted infrastructure projects.”
Norway’s and the fund’s relationship to energy sources is complicated. The Scandinavian country’s wealth is generated by vast pools of oil found, starting in 1969, in the Norway-controlled portion of the North Sea, and the fund is financed entirely from the country’s petroleum assets, noted the Financial Times.
The fund got its first cash infusion in 1998 and generates roughly a 5.5% annual return, according to its website. Most of its investments are in equities, followed by fixed income and a sliver in real estate, which was added as an asset class in 2010.
Michelle Lodge is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared in Time, Fortune, Barron's, the Miami Herald, the British Medical Journal as well as on CNBC.com.