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World's largest sovereign wealth fund can back renewables

Norway to allow $1trn fund to invest in unlisted renewables, soon after move to exclude some oil & gas

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund can start backing unlisted renewables projects, after a policy change by the Norwegian government that comes soon after moves to throw some oil and gas firms off its investment roster.

Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), worth about $1trn and based on the nation’s oil and gas wealth, was previously barred from investing in unlisted renewable energy infrastructure – a prohibition heavily criticised by environmental campaigners.

The country’s finance ministry said on Friday that would change, “as a major part of the renewable energy investment opportunities is found in the unlisted market, especially in unlisted infrastructure projects.

“Expectations of significant investments going forward mean that this market is of interest to institutional investors such as the GPFG.”

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The additional projects will be subject to the same requirements as the fund’s other investments, said the ministry, which also doubled to NKr120bn ($14bn) the upper limit on investments under its environment-related investment mandates.

However, a 2% upper cap on the portion of unlisted renewables investments in the total fund will also “limit risk”.

Norges Bank – Norway’s Central Bank, which manages the GPFG, will “proceed with caution and start out by considering investments with partners in developed markets, and in projects with relatively low operational and market risk”, said the government.

Finance minister Siv Jensen said: “Allowing for unlisted renewable energy infrastructure is not a climate policy measure, but is a part of the investment strategy for the fund.

“We are not stipulating that the fund shall be invested in unlisted renewable energy infrastructure, but are enabling Norges Bank to make such investments if deemed profitable.”

News of the policy shift on renewables comes soon after Norway tightened its approach to the oil and gas sector, with plans to exclude companies involved in the sharp end of exploration and production from the GPFG’s investment roster – a move criticised by some for letting the world’s oil supermajors off the hook as their diversified operations would be unaffected.

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