SDCL Energy Efficiency trust displays dividend dependability in face of market stress

General/ 15 April 2020
A focus on cutting costs and carbon emissions has proved robust in the short-term and are expected to provide the basis for long-term strength too.

SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust PLC (LON:SEIT) is one of the few companies still paying a dividend through the coronavirus crisis and looks set to continue offering a dependable income in future from its focus on “cheaper, cleaner, more reliable” energy.

The services funded by the trust are typically essential for companies and their staff to function: electricity, heat and cooling.

A focus on providing these important energy services to critical industries, such as food producers, hospitals and data centres, has proven that the trust’s strategy remains sound even in pandemic conditions.

“We’re currently operating in an extreme stress scenario globally but our portfolio continues to operate under this environment,” says Jonathan Maxwell, chief executive of the trust’s investment manager, SDCL.

For example, among the trust’s 26 investments, one area of concentration is Spain’s olive oil industry, with a total of 125 megawatts (MW) of co-generation projects.

As food production is clearly essential to the economy of the country if not the continent, the industry and the generation projects have continued to operate.

Closer to home in other essential industries, SDCL provides on-site combined heat and power for St Barts Hospital in London, the trust that is also operating the Nightingale hospital at London’s ExCeL centre, and is building out 5MW of rooftop solar photovoltaic installations for Tesco’s estate of stores.

The trust only invests in projects that fit into two categories: where cleaner energy is generated on-site and/or where energy usage is being reduced.

With projects as diverse as providing on-site power for Citigroup’s London data centre and waste-gas recycling for US steel mills, what links them all is that they deliver a stable and predictable income stream for the trust.

This meant that Maxwell and the board were last month was able to maintain 5p dividend for the past year to 31 March, and to confirm that original IPO guidance for a target of a 5.5p dividend for the current year to March 2021 remains in place.

WATCH: SDCL Energy Efficiency trust on track to achieve target dividend

While the SDCL trust is predominately focused on income, there is cash to invest in new projects. It aims to expand existing investments, including taking the Tesco rooftop solar installations to around 15MW.

“We’re seeing quite a lot of additional demand for rooftop solar, from an increasing focus on energy security and on-site generation in the current environment,” says Maxwell.

“From a market demand perspective, I don’t think the focus on cost-cutting and on cutting carbon emissions is going anywhere any time soon.”

For income investors looking for reliable sources amid the recent dividend death, that’s just the sort of thing you want to hear.