Since it is June, the 6th month of the year, we wanted to present you with our thoughts on the six hottest markets for solar financing in the country. If you have questions or thoughts on these markets or any others not listed, don’t hesitate to reach out to Dan Holloway @ Dholloway@scf.com or Joel Binstock @ jbinstock@scf.com

1) California: California is the most developed and saturated solar market in the United States. In 2016, approximately 10% of all energy produced in-state was from solar generation. With $0.15+ per kwh rates, utilities with experience working with solar developers, and ample sunshine California will continue to deploy solar at a substantial clip going forward, particularly in the C&I and community solar markets.

2) Massachusetts: Out with the old, in with the new. Massachusetts has begun to phase out their SREC II Carve-out program and replace it with the new and improved SMART program. SMART is expected to be one of the most attractive solar programs in the country in 2018 & 2019 with significant available capacity to be deployed. Read more about the SMART program and SCF’s SMART offering here!

3) Illinois: Illinois, much like Massachusetts has decided against pursuing a traditional SREC Program to achieve its RPS standards. Instead, it has established the Adjustable Block Program (AB Program) which offers fixed incentives over 5 years in order to encourage solar deployment. The AB program is still in its early stages but anticipated opening is Q4 2018 or early 2019. One thing to note here is that while the Community Renewable Generation category is substantially oversubscribed (some have said by as much as 500% or more), the Distributed Renewable Generation category (2 MW and less) is still relatively unsubscribed.  You can read more about it from SCF here!

4) New Jersey: New Jersey is a challenging but exciting market. While the SRECs in the state are some of the highest in the country, their price volatility creates uncertainty and risk exposure for owners of PV systems. As a result, the cost of capital typically is the highest for states like New Jersey with uncontracted risk exposure. However, there is considerable discussion going on within the state related to modifying the current SREC structure to make it look more like the MA and IL incentive programs. Everyone will have to wait to see how these conversations ultimately play out.
5) Rhode Island: Rhode Island is a smaller more nuanced market than the previous states listed. There is a feed-in-tariff opportunity called the Renewable Energy Growth Program which allows developers to supply electricity directly to National Grid in exchange for a bid-rate locked in for a 20 year term. Similar to the MA SMART program, SCF can provide programmatic site lease pricing using the SCF Suite. Please contact us if you would like to learn more.
6) Arizona: Sunshine galore. Arizona has some of the highest insolation rates in the country. Combined with sophisticated solar developers & installers, Arizona is a state that is trying to compete with California for state-unsubsidized solar. As build prices continue to decline and the price of electricity continues to rise, we are finally reaching an inflection point where financing becomes an attractive option for this market.
31 May 2018
May 31, 2018

Talking SMART

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Introduction:

The state of Massachusetts has a long track record of promoting renewable energy & sustainable development; however, recent legislative changes have prepared the Commonwealth to become one of the largest hot-beds for renewable energy development in 2018 & beyond.
The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) recently finalized the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program as its plan to replace the widely successful SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Certificate) Carve-Out II Program implemented in 2014. This program was designed to assist in the procurement of 1,600 MW of solar by 2020. While the SREC program helped jumpstart renewable development in MA, the state’s RPS standards dictate that even more renewable resources be installed; hence the creation of the SMART Program.

The SMART Program

Learning from the past, the SMART Program seeks to integrate the fixed nature of rebates (typically 1 lump-sum payment) with the performance-based & longer-term REC structure. RECs, while critical for solar deployment in Massachusetts, have challenged the financeability of solar projects due to price uncertainty. Simply put, while RECs can offer upside for project economics, they also provide significant risk due to price fluctuations. Rebates on the other hand provide fixed upfront incentives that are often paid within the first year of deployment, therefore ensuring those respective economics. SMART, through significant research & development, hopes to resolve the price uncertainty of RECs through locked-in contracts (20 year terms for projects over 25kW).
SMART is predicated on a “Base Compensation Rate” plus location based, off-taker based, and energy storage based rate adders. The base compensation rate varies based on utility provider, system size, and block availability – once program enrollment hits a certain capacity, there is a 4% step down in the rate for the following block.

SMART Rate = Base Compensation Rate + Location adder + Offtaker adder + ESS adder

These fixed 20-year contracts are incredibly important for solar financing. By locking in revenue that is guaranteed through the SMART program, solar financiers can reduce their risk exposure and offer a lower cost of capital while providing a better solar offering to the market. With base compensation rates ranging from $0.15/kWh – $0.36/kWh, the SMART program expects to be one of the most attractive state solar programs administered in the US.

How SCF is taking advantage of SMART

Sustainable Capital Finance has been following the SMART Program through its development, and is in the midst of incorporating a new site-lease solving feature, soon be integrated into SCF’s Quick Quote calculator and the SCF Suite. SCF’s Developer & EPC partners will be able to use the new feature to approximate site-lease payments that SCF can support under SMART and other programs as well. While the SMART Program is expected to be activated in the coming months, SCF is actively seeking out opportunities for site control in MA. If you are evaluating a project for the SMART program or are interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to reach out to Joel Binstock @ jbinstock@scf.com or Dan Holloway @ dholloway@scf.com.

What are 3 words to describe SCF?
Tight-knit, Agile, and Talented.

What do you like most about SCF?
The team. SCF has worked tirelessly to assemble a multi-talented team armed with skill sets that blanket the solar industry (as well as the surrounding territory). We have team members who came from banking, construction, marketing, and sales. Everyone has a niche within the company and together we are greater than the sum of our parts. It doesn’t hurt that everyone has a great sense of humor either. 

What is your role at SCF?
I manage developers, EPCs, and conduct diligence from a construction risk standpoint.

What career advice would you give for people trying to enter the solar field?
It is important to have a baseline understanding of every component of the industry. This includes sales, engineering, construction, client relationships, utility requirements, financial obligations etc. Even if only one of those areas is your focus, it will enable you to make informed decisions as well as anticipate pitfalls for your project or portfolio.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
I started as an entry level installer and have worked my way up to the top of the solar food chain. I was also named a CohnReznick Capital Juniors in Energy Finance 30 under 30.

What is the best book you’ve read?
Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen with The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera as an honorable mention.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy watching and playing sports, eco-tourism (off the beaten path), and sampling restaurants with my friends.

What are your hopes for the solar industry?
I want to see the utilities work with solar companies in order to optimize the grid to handle more renewable energy, and the solar companies to implement more storage into their systems to offset peak demand.

What is the best concert you’ve ever attended?
Vampire Weekend.

What has been your favorite city you’ve ever lived in and why?
Park City. I grew up there and was able to ski, bike, hike, and play team sports as much as I wanted.

If you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?
River Ale by Deschutes Brewery.

On Monday, January 22, 2018, The Trump administration reached a decision on the Section 201 Trade Case that has been lingering over the solar industry for the last several months. Sustainable Capital Finance will provide further updates as we learn more but here are the preliminary findings:
 

 

  • There will be a 30% tariff on all imported crystalline silicon PV modules & cells with the first 2.5 GW of cell imports being excluded.
  • The tariffs will decrease annually at a rate of 5% over the next 4 years finalizing at 15% in 2022.
  • There are no floor prices or quotas established, despite being included within the initial recommendation proposed by the two petitioners Suniva & Solarworld.
  • According to GTM Research, the proposed tariff should equate to a tax of $0.10-$0.15/W which will hamper deployment of utility-scale solar installations by as much as 9%.
  • Solar jobs will undoubtedly be affected by this tariff, but the industry as a whole can breathe a sigh of relief that further damages were avoided. 

 

 

18 Jan 2018
January 18, 2018

January Industry News

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Regulatory News

New Jersey Senate Passes Bill 2276 to Raise Solar Energy Targets

The New Jersey Senate passed a bill on January 8th, 2018 as a short term fix to avoid the collapse of the solar market once the current goal is hit later this year. It is still unknown as to whether or not Gov. Chris Christie will sign the bill and his term expires next week.

FERC Rejects Energy Secretary’s Plan to Bail Out Coal and Nuclear Industries

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order officially ending Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to bail out both the coal & nuclear industry, citing the DOE didn’t provide evidence that the existing market rules are “unjust and unreasonable”. The proposed plan helped subsidize the stored fuel costs required to operate coal & nuclear plants.  FERC’s order was praised by both environmental groups & energy advocates.

Technology News

Panasonic Begins to Ramp Up Solar Cell Manufacturing at Tesla Gigafactory 2

Back in 2016, Tesla and Panasonic developed a partnership to produce and distribute high-efficiency Panasonic cells & modules. After a year of delays and trial runs, the Gigafactory 2 is officially producing both cells & panels. A portion of the manufactured panels are dedicated to the Tesla’s much hyped solar-roof. Systems are starting to be installed on roofs of non-Tesla employees.

DOE invests $12 Million in 8 projects with goals to improve solar forecasting.

These projects will seek to improve solar forecasting, building upon similar projects that were awarded funds in 2012. Expanding the solar forecasting from 24 to 48 hours in advance will help grid operators manage day-ahead planning. An example of one of the awarded projects is IBM’s Watt-Sun Program.

Schneider Electric SE & Cybersecurity Firm FireEye Confirmed Successful Hack of Industrial Control Systems at an Unnamed Facility

Cybersecurity has become an increased focal point for the electric industry in 2018 & beyond. With more and more cyber-attack attempts occurring every year, industry leaders are being challenged to address such a critical issue. Consulting Firm Accenture recently found that more than 75% of utility executives in North America believe a cyber-attack is probable in as soon as five years.

15 Dec 2017
December 15, 2017

18 Solar Wishes for the Holidays

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‘Tis the season to…come up with a 2018 solar wish list? Yes, that’s precisely what the team at SCF compiled. Some of these wishes are realistic, others are not…like that 120 crayon Crayola pack that never made its way under the tree. Check out SCF’s #SolarWishList, and please feel free to add to the list, by utilizing the comment section.

Happy Holidays!

1) Preserve the ITC & throw in an extension, better yet, extend it indefinitely!

2) Minimal tariffs & quotas on cell & module imports (Section 201 Trade Case)

3) Blockchain Investment & development of additional use cases

4) More Solar-Inspired Art & Architecture

5) InterSolar & SPI to be in a beautiful city near me

6) Increased Solar + Storage Deployment (Read more on storage bankability here)

7) Less Solar Degradation (Loss in production due to panel aging) – SunPower’s most recent degradation rates are testing at 0.25%/annually (Source here).

8) To help reverse Climate Change

9) Cheaper Panels and more efficient ways to install panels

10) Bankability of SRECs & additional rebate programs

11) Improved Community Solar Asset Management & Development of Solar for Low-Income Housing

12) More solar jobs & diversity in the solar industry

13) Reconstruction & Renovation of Puerto Rican Grid to include DERs

14) Significantly more institutional capital in the marketplace therefore lowering the cost of capital

15) Expansion into new markets: States like Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire & others are positioning themselves to make significant progress in solar development in the next couple years.

16) Cooperation & teamwork from all stakeholders continuing to promote a sustainable cause

17) 365 days of sunshine a year, throw in some rain and snow when/where needed

18) Tax reform that incentivizes more tax equity in the market.

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that is celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. It’s a chance to give back to your community during the holiday season.

SCF believes that it’s important to give back to local communities and help others in need. The following nonprofits use solar energy as a way to empower the people they serve, whether through policy reform, lowering energy bills, or safely delivering babies. Each of these nonprofits is making a difference in communities through solar power, and for that we are grateful!

1. RE-volv: RE-volv raises money through crowdfunding campaigns, to build solar projects for community-serving nonprofits. As the organizations repay RE-volv for the loan, it pays you back in the form of a portfolio credit that can then be used to invest in more solar projects. It’s a “pay-it-forward model for solar energy.” To date, the organization has installed 10 solar projects and has been backed by nearly 1,000 people. Help bring solar to an underserved community today! Check out projects that need backers

2. GRID Alternatives: GRID works nationwide to provide low income home owners and nonprofits with free solar installations. They have installed over 36 MW of solar nationwide and continue to be an advocate for bringing solar to underserved communities. Not only does GRID install solar, they also provide invaluable workforce development through installation training programs, SolarCorps Fellowships, and its “Troops to Solar” program. GRID has 14 locations nationally and internationally and is always accepting volunteers! It’s an invaluable experience: SCF knows firsthand. Donate here!

3. Vote Solar: Vote Solar has a mission of bringing solar energy to the mainstream, by advocating for solar energy policy reform at the state level. It has been instrumental in the development of numerous policies regarding net metering that can be used across the industry to fairly value solar energy compensation. Its advocacy has also spurred interest from local governments on the topics of community solar adoption, modern energy grid development, and low-income solar access. To help expand the adoption of solar energy, and support Vote Solar, donate here.

4. We Care Solar: We Care Solar was founded in 2009 by Dr. Laurel Scatchel. During a visit to Nigeria, she witnessed a high maternal mortality rate due to lack of proper lighting in medical facilities. She worked with her husband, a solar energy educator, to create a prototype for what would soon become the Solar Suitcase. Every portable Solar Suitcase provides health workers with a reliable source of power and highly efficient lighting.  As of December 2016, 2,260 health centers were equipped with solar lighting and over 1 million newborns were delivered in Solar Suitcase facilities. As an added bonus, all donations received on #GivingTuesday will be dollar-for-dollar matched. Donate here.

5.Everybody Solar: Everybody Solar works to protect the environment through solar energy projects. It provides solar power to local charities to help them reduce their electricity costs. These solar energy savings can equate to thousands of dollars that can be put towards the communities they serve instead of pricey electric bills. It currently has four live projects that are in need of funding, including the Lakota Nation Youth Center in South Dakota. The Center provides shelter, food, and support services for youth in need in their community. With your help, these solar projects can become a reality. Donate here!

6. The Solar Foundation: The mission of the Solar Foundation is to accelerate adoption of the world’s most abundant energy source, solar energy! The Solar Foundation continues to deliver high quality studies related to jobs and diversity in the solar sector. One of its’ most notable programs, Solar Ready Vets, provides training, hands on experience, and job placement assistance for transitioning military personnel. Donate here!

About Sustainable Capital Finance:  Sustainable Capital Finance (SCF) is a third party financier & owner/operator of commercial & industrial (C&I) solar assets and is comprised of experts that specialize in structured finance and solar development. SCF has a vast network of EPCs and Developers across the US that submit project development opportunities through SCF’s cloud-based platform, the “SCF Suite”. This allows SCF to acquire and develop early to mid-stage C&I solar projects, while aggregating them into large portfolios.

SCF has standardized the diligence and transaction process, thus creating cost-efficiencies and risk mitigation, in order to solidify the C&I marketplace as an investment-worthy asset class. For more information, visit http://www.scf.com. Connect with us on Twitter at @SCF_News and follow us on Linkedin and Facebook!

23 Nov 2017
November 23, 2017

November Industry News

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Regulatory News

Section 201 Suniva Trade Dispute Update:

On November 10th, The International Trade Commission officially submitted 3 reports pertaining to the Section 201 Trade dispute on imported solar cells & modules. The reports explained the meaning behind the ruling and recommended several remedy scenarios to address the dispute. The president has 90 days to review these reports after-which he can choose to accept the proposed remedies or initiate others. Utility News

Puerto Rico Leadership Resigning Amidst Questionably Awarded Hurricane Response Contract

Aber Gomez, the Director of the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency resigned earlier this month as a result of pressure amounting from the failure in emergency response & lack of remedial action. One of the most pressing issues is that the island’s electrical grid is still under immense pressure and stress with as much as 50% of the island remains without power. Another main story to come out of the recovery efforts is a controversial contract signed with Whitefish Energy Holding, a small outfit that seemingly did not have the credentials or solution offering to have been awarded this $300 million contract.

PG&E Investigated for liabilities from Napa & Sonoma Fires

Officials from California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection disclosed that they have been investigating Pacific Gas & Electric’s power equipment as a possible cause for the Napa & Sonoma County fires that took place last month. PG&E has combatted this initial claim for the mean time while investigations will continue to shed light on the wildfires.

Technology News

Hybrid Wind+Energy Storage Technology Ready For Deployment

A Danish Wind Project Developer, KK Wind Solutions, is developing a wind turbine + Energy Storage System (ESS) combined product which would help to reduce fluctuations in output by 90%. The main purpose of the project is to develop a scalable modularized system that is more resilient to fluctuating environmental factors. Another company, Toshiba, recently installed a 2 MW storage system to go alongside NRG Yield’s Elbow Creek Wind Farm in TX. These hybrid systems are starting to leave the lab and meet real-world conditions so there will be much more insight into these projects moving forward.

 

 

10 Nov 2017
November 10, 2017

The Sun is Shining on Illinois

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One might say that the Midwestern region of the USA has been slow to adopt solar and other renewable energy sources… not because of a lack of sun, but due to the inherently low price of electricity in this region. This is largely a result of the natural gas fracking boom starting in the early 2000’s. A multitude of factors, namely the cost effectiveness of solar & customer preference, have led to legislative changes that promote the growth of renewables. No Midwestern state has positioned itself to achieve a lofty energy paradigm shift more so than Illinois, when the Commerce Commission passed the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) in 2011.

EIMA has provided $3.2 billion for grid modernization, in addition to a significant investment into smart meters with a goal of installing more than two million new meters by the end of 2018. Smart meters provide much more accurate data, reducing the need to estimate usage for utility bills. In addition, service activation and efficiency improvements are all made easier through the use of smart meters, versus traditional metering devices.

Through the grid modernization process, EIMA established the framework and the data acquisition tools needed for future programs to be successful, particularly the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), established in 2016.

FEJA is perhaps the most critical piece of legislation pertaining to energy & grid modernization to ever come out of the Midwest. There were 3 major focuses that FEJA attempted to address:

  • Stimulating job creation within renewables, energy efficiency, & grid modernization
  • Statewide energy efficiency improvements:
    •  Illinois’ current goal is to reduce demand by 13%-17% across the two major utilities (ComEd & Ameren) by 2025
    • Loftier goals have been set for 2030 (in the range of 16-21.5%)
  • Significant improvement to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS):
    •  RPS Goal is to have 25% of electricity generated by renewable sources by 2025
    • Shift in REC program to encourage solar deployment (previously wind-centric)
    •  4 million Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for 1.3 GW of wind projects
    • 4 million RECS for 3 GW of solar projects
      •  Specific carve-outs for utility scale, brownfield development, as well as residential solar projects

Delving further into the RPS program, FEJA helped establish the Adjustable Block (AB) Program. State RECs have traditionally been able to fluctuate in value due to market trends and policy changes. However, through learned experience of other REC markets, the Illinois IPA adopted a modern approach, guaranteeing 15-year fixed-price contracts under the AB program. From a financing perspective, this is a huge win due to the strengthened bankability of these RECs. Now locked into long-term contracts, these RECs can be effectively utilized to drive down the cost of solar to make it much more competitive with traditional energy sources.

New projects energized on or after June 1st 2017 by pre-approved developers, are eligible to participate in the AB program with each block anticipated to be 22 MW in size. Between each block there will be a 4% decline in the value of RECs, so for those looking to maximize the REC values, it is important to be ready to apply once the program opens.

The Timeline:
The AB program is still being finalized and is open to comment until November 13th 2017. It is anticipated that the Illinois Commerce Commission will issue an order confirming or modifying the AB program by April 3rd 2018. The first block of the AB program will have a soft closing, meaning that every project that applies for the program in the first 60 days of commencement will be locked in to the Block 1 prices, regardless if the block’s assigned capacity is filled.

If you’re a solar developer, installer, or are just looking to learn more about the Illinois solar market and how SCF plans on participating in the AB program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Joel Binstock of SCF, @ jbinstock@scf.com.


About Sustainable Capital Finance:  Sustainable Capital Finance (SCF) is a third party financier & owner/operator of commercial & industrial (C&I) solar assets and is comprised of experts that specialize in structured finance and solar development. SCF has a vast network of EPCs and Developers across the US that submit project development opportunities through SCF’s cloud-based platform, the “SCF Suite”. This allows SCF to acquire and develop early to mid-stage C&I solar projects, while aggregating them into large portfolios.

SCF has standardized the diligence and transaction process, thus creating cost-efficiencies and risk mitigation, in order to solidify the C&I marketplace as an investment-worthy asset class. For more information, visit http://www.scf.com. Connect with us on Twitter at @SCF_News and follow us on Linkedin and Facebook!

Sign Up to Learn More about SCF:

Each solar financing company has its own set of guidelines when financing solar installations with PPAs. At SCF, we’ve methodically standardized the financing process despite the inconsistencies across different states. Here are four things EPCs and Developers should know about PPAs. Following this guide will allow for a streamlined commercial solar financing process.

  1. Complete Financials – Three years of audited off-taker financials with organized income statement, balance sheet, and notes are crucial in underwriting the project. Unaudited financials and tax returns often do not have enough information for a complete analysis. A complete picture of an off-taker’s financials is needed in order to quantify the risk of default and ultimately price the project. When it comes to financials, more information is always welcome.
  2. Standard PPA Forms – SCF has modified the Standardized Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) PPA form, and adopted it as its PPA. Utilizing SCF’s form PPA will allow for better pricing and quicker financing by focusing review on (hopefully!) a few redlines from counter parties. Additionally, SCF’s form PPA is integrated within the SCF Suite, which is its proprietary software used to compile all necessary agreements and diligence items. Using the Suite creates a standard transaction flow for each project and allows efficiencies to be realized throughout the diligence and construction process.
  3. Minimum Project Sizes – One should know the minimum project size for their financing partner. SCF’s minimum project size is 100 kW; a relatively small number compared to the marketplace. SCF has reduced its soft costs in order to finance smaller commercial projects that have historically been leases or cash deals. Systems smaller than 100 kW typically can’t overcome the soft costs including real estate, underwriting and legal costs. SCF is also equipped to transact projects as large as 20 MW. SCF’s Quick Quote is a great way to see if a project meets SCF’s minimum requirements.
  4. State Regulations – Each state has different laws regarding renewable energy and many states have ambiguous laws that are constantly changing. Some states, such as Florida, are in the midst of legal battles to allow third party ownership of solar projects. Currently, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oklahoma don’t allow PPAs. In states such as Arizona, PPAs are not allowed, but Solar Services Agreements (SSAs) are permitted. SCF has experience with SSAs and can guide you to the right financing solution in your state. Despite the current political climate, most states have gravitated towards legislation that is pro renewable energy.

About Sustainable Capital Finance:  Sustainable Capital Finance (SCF) is a third party financier & owner/operator of commercial & industrial (C&I) solar assets and is comprised of experts that specialize in structured finance and solar development. SCF has a vast network of EPCs and Developers across the US that submit project development opportunities through SCF’s cloud-based platform, the “SCF Suite”. This allows SCF to acquire and develop early to mid-stage C&I solar projects, while aggregating them into large portfolios.

SCF has standardized the diligence and transaction process, thus creating cost-efficiencies and risk mitigation, in order to solidify the C&I marketplace as an investment-worthy asset class. For more information, visit http://www.scf.com. Connect with us on Twitter at @SCF_News and follow us on Linkedin and Facebook!