Dubbed “the Tesla of fund managers” by data analytics company S&P Global, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) is a pioneering fund management enterprise. Founded in Denmark – the world’s leading wind-powered country per capita – CIP invests exclusively in renewable energy, with backing from more than 45 pension funds in Europe and Asia.
Marina Hsu, managing director of CIP Taiwan, notes that investors’ appetite for renewable energy is insatiable. Although the company set an initial target of €5.5 billion (US$6.4 billion), for its latest fund, CI IV, it closed at €7 billion due to strong interest. “It shows that these days, you go green, or you go home,” she says.
Unlike many renewable energy developers, CIP provides complete projects that include fund management, project development, construction, and operation of assets. The company is known for taking risks far outside the comfort zone of other fund managers.
“We have a unique advantage compared to the traditional developer,” says Hsu. “Usually, you need to develop a project until it reaches maturity before you go into the project financing process and seek more capital, or you’ll sell existing assets to initiate a new project. But we already have enough capital to enter a market and rapidly expand our presence.”
The expansion of its Taiwan office is a prime example of CIP’s ability to quickly build a solid base when entering a new market. Hsu, who has 13 years of experience in offshore wind, was one of CIP’s first two employees in Taiwan in 2017, and today she is joined by 170 coworkers at the office.
Green financing is CIP’s forte, and the company seeks to set an international benchmark for excellence in the area of green finance, something it has won around a dozen awards for in the Asia-Pacific region alone. Support from several governments – including Denmark, the UK, Japan, and South Korea – and 25 banks, as well as various life insurance companies, has enabled CIP to move forward with resolution.
“We are the only project in Asia with life insurance companies as shareholders,” says Hsu. “We have two Taiwanese life insurance companies holding minority shares of our Taiwan windfarms, and it didn’t take us very long to get there. In the past, it took life insurers in Europe 10-12 years to enlarge their risk appetite to be a shareholder in a wind farm.”
CIP selected Taiwan for its first investment project in Asia due to the island’s stable policies, proper feed-in-tariffs, strong wind resources, shallow waters, and relatively stable grid security. CIP’s two projects in Taiwan – the Changfang & Xidao (CFXD) Project and the Zhongneng (ZN) Project – will produce enough energy to power one million households.
Taiwan, stresses Hsu, is an important forerunner in the Asia-Pacific offshore wind industry, which gives the island momentum to become a regional leader in renewable energy. CIP’s role in this development is to be Taiwan’s most localized international company in offshore wind.
“Our role in Taiwan is to support the formation of a local wind power industry,” she says. “Apart from wind power, we’re also localizing marine construction; our contractors are incubating and training young cadets from Taiwan.”
But true and sustainable localization requires engagement and support from all levels of society, stresses Hsu. That is why CIP works to accelerate wind power knowledge by sending Taiwanese researchers to Denmark for training at the Danish Wind Energy Academy before they return to Taiwan to teach students about offshore wind. Additionally, the company runs health and safety awareness projects and has developed a wind energy workshop taught in several schools in Taiwan.
“It’s important for us to care for the communities of the markets we enter,” says Hsu. “We also have a fund dedicated to the six nearshore towns by our projects in Changhua that works to increase the wellbeing of the elderly, children, and young mothers.”
Although CIP grew at a record pace during 2020, The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the wind power industry in Taiwan. Taiwan shut its borders to most professionals, subsequently delaying projects and slowing the development of the local industry. Hsu hopes to see a reopening of Taiwan in 2022, which would allow it to take full advantage of its wind power momentum.
“Moving forward, we also need to ask ourselves what other energy sources could effectively help Taiwan become carbon neutral,” she says. “The National Development Council plans to present a net-zero 2050 roadmap by the end of the year. That’s the type of master plan we’re calling for, and we hope to see a sustainable vision that includes strong public-private partnerships.”