LETTER FROM THE CEO
“Countries can and should improve their national security and climate security by scaling up investments in climate solutions.”
Jeffrey W. Eckel
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
This annual letter was originally about how the integrity and rigor of our ESG approach produces tangible shareholder value due to high employee retention, which is crucial for solving client problems, building institutional memory, and achieving operating efficiencies. These are important advantages for our business.
But the tragic events unfolding in Ukraine cause me to go back to the beginning of my journey in the energy industry in the 1970s and remember the origins of energy efficiency, solar, and wind in the U.S. The twin Arab oil embargoes of 1973 and 1978 shocked the world, causing us all to realize how reliance on fossil fuels from unstable countries creates significant risk for economies and people. The price shocks launched the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries to reduce reliance on oil in the electric power and transport sectors. Fluorescent light bulbs, low-flow shower heads, and vehicle mileage standards were designed to make the U.S. more secure. We were driven not by the risk of climate change, but instead by the risk of supply shortages and price volatility.
The progress the clean energy business has made since the 1970s is built on the fundamental need to have secure energy supplies at reliable prices. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a reminder to Europe, and to a lesser extent the U.S., of the importance of controlling, as much as possible, a country’s energy supplies, lest one become beholden to hostile regimes. Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas for heating buildings is a lesson not learned from the shocks of the 1970s. Heating buildings could be easily and more economically accomplished by the electrification of homes and buildings using heat pumps and distributed solar. Shutting down nuclear plants might make sense once Europe’s electric power needs have been secured with renewables and storage but is premature if still reliant on Russian natural gas. Energy security is national security.
In some respects, energy markets have been too stable since the 1970s, causing us to forget this fundamental lesson from history. In the very short term, like in times of war, worrying about climate change is a luxury. But after the conflict ends, for better or for worse, the need to accelerate investments in climate solutions is even more obvious and urgent. A country can and should improve its national security and climate security by scaling up investments in climate solutions.
2021 Review and Outlook for 2022
We invested more than $1.7 billion in climate solutions in 2021, resulting in a 24% increase in our Portfolio and a corresponding 52% increase in Distributable Net Investment Income. As a result, HASI continued its strong financial performance in 2021, increasing Distributable Earnings per Share by 21%. The market opportunity for climate solutions has never been larger, and we continue to see an attractive and diversified set of expanding markets in which to invest. Despite the well-noted supply chain and inflation issues impacting most industries, strong demand for climate solutions will continue for decades.
We invested heavily in talent and technology in 2021, increasing our capacity to grow our business and serve our clients. As a result, we maintained our Portfolio yield at 7.5% and expect it to remain attractive if interest rates move higher. We also reduced our average cost of funds, primarily driven by a large fixed-rate borrowing issued at a very low coupon and by obtaining a revolving line-of-credit and a first-of-its-kind CarbonCount®-based Commercial Paper program.
We look forward to strong growth in 2022 as our dual revenue business model continues to perform in the growing climate solutions investment market. HASI’s breadth of end markets generates diverse investment opportunities, increasing the stability of our business. As an example, our Portfolio of almost 300 discrete investments across all our end markets provides robust recurring revenue streams. Finally, the flexibility we enjoy in funding our liabilities, including our securitization platform, allows us to grow in any interest rate environment. Considering all of this, we increased and extended our Distributable Earnings guidance to 10%-13% through 2024. Given the strong earnings growth, our Board felt it appropriate to also raise our dividend by 7% in the first quarter of 2022.
Our hearts are with the people of Ukraine during this horrific war. Meanwhile, we will continue to expand our efforts in climate solutions investing, making the U.S. stronger while reducing our risks to climate change.
Jeffrey W. Eckel
Chairman & CEO