The major stories in the energy space in 2015 were plummeting oil prices and climate-related issues, which were reinforced by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The former has led to a slowdown of infrastructure work, with the Keystone XL Pipeline being vetoed by President Obama in February 2015, and several wells remaining uncompleted.
Upstream and, to a lesser extent, midstream players have been hit hard by the oil price slump.
Lawyers have seen an increase in credit-side work, with clients attempting to stimulate capital flow, and near the end of 2015 - when the realisation sank in that low prices would not be leaving quickly - there was an uptick in oil and gas transactions.
There has also been an increase in disputes between participants in joint ventures, who are now trying to get out of long-term supply contracts; several joint ventures have unwound and sold their mineral rights.
Insolvency and bankruptcy cases have become increasingly prominent: over 30 oil and gas companies went bankrupt in 2015, largely in the second two quarters.
M&A activity is increasingly driven by distress rather than a desire to expand, with an abundance of distressed assets continuing to enter the market.
It is an uncertain market indeed; sellers are reluctant to sell too low, but when it comes to energy assets they are very much trapped in a buyer’s market.
There has been a rise in asset-bundling to make assets more palatable to private equity firms, which have become instrumental in driving activity in the sector.The renewables sector, on the other hand, is burgeoning, its development being pushed by many US states.The EPA released a Clean Power Plan together with the Obama Administration, setting targets to reduce carbon dioxide by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030, which will be a boost to the nuclear power sector.California passed a bill targeting 50% renewables by the same year; Hawaii enacted the nation’s first 100% renewable energy standard, to be met by 2045.Coal plants have been retired in force, rendered unviable by low gas prices.With Congress extending the renewable investment tax credit, firms are expecting an increasing number of projects particularly in solar and wind, including a further rise in foreign investment, with more and more hedge funds and private equity firms coming to the market.