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Outlook 2017: Going once, going twice

Renewables auctions from Canada to Chile are growing in number and provide investors with a chance to lay their hands on a large number of contracts to develop clean energy assets.

This was the year we saw clean energy auctions really start to take off in North and South American markets.

Clean or renewable energy auctions have grown in interest among financiers and developers as a way to bid on a large number of contracts. They've also proven an effective way for governments to procure projects more cheaply, as the bidding process drives costs down.

Auctions started being held in emerging markets to draw in foreign investors, but developed countries have started holding their own.

Some of the largest auctions in North and South America from this year include Chile's auction in August, when the South American country awarded contracts to supply 12,430GWh per year of electricity. The average price per contract fell from $79.34 per MWh at Chile's last auction to $47.59 per MWh this time round.

Two European energy companies, Mainstream Renewable Power and a subsidiary of Enel Group, were the big winners, securing a combined 70 percent of government contracts up for bid.

Mexico held its first renewable energy auction in April, and followed up with its second auction in September. In the first auction, SENER, the country's energy secretariat, awarded 1.7GW of solar contracts. Winning bidders included Enel Green Power, Canadian solar subsidiary Recurrent Energy, Vega Solar and JinkoSolar.

Renewable energy auctions were held for the first time in Canada's Ontario province this year as well. Ontario awarded in March nearly 300MW of wind capacity in its first competitive renewables auction. The province's Independent Electricity System Operator reported lower average prices for wind projects than what was contracted through the previous feed-in tariff scheme. The average price was C$0.0859 ($0,74; €0,71) per kWh, compared to C$0.135 per kWh from the 2009 FiT.

For next year, another province in Canada, Alberta, will hold its first renewable energy auction, seeking to procure up to 400MW. Argentina is also planning its next auction for May next year.

For investors looking for a less risky play at a large bucket of clean energy assets, Canada's looming auctions are looking like a safe bet in 2017. There are also plenty of attractive opportunities in the Latin American market, a geography where infrastructure investors have been paying closer attention to already.