Below are soundbites from speakers and panelists who spoke at Infocast’s Solar Power Finance & Investment Summit on March 22 and 23 in San Diego.  It was Infocast’s best attended event ever, and the mood was relatively upbeat.

The soundbites are edited for clarity and are organized by topic, rather than in chronological order.  They were prepared without the benefit of a transcript or recording.

Tax Equity Structures

“The tax equity flip [partnership structure] is more complicated, [than a sale-leaseback], in particularly if there is back leverage.”  Director of Investing, Solar Company

“The optimal structure for C&I [for a partnership flip with back leverage] is 40 percent tax equity, 45 percent back leverage debt” and 15 percent sponsor equity.  Director of Investing, Solar Company

“Last year it was almost universally inverted leases; this year mostly partnership flips.”  Banker, Specialty Bank

“There is a more pronounced tension between back leverage and tax equity in an investment tax credit transaction, [than a production tax credit transaction,] because of the risk of recapture of the investment tax  credit.” Managing Director, Tax Equity Investor

“There is increased tension between back leverage and tax equity, whether the stress is cash step ups for under performance or other matters.  What we thought were normal structuring techniques the back leverage lenders take exception to.”  Managing Director, Money Center Bank

Selecting a tax equity structure should be “all about velocity.  Really, [the sale-leaseback] is what is easiest to do.” Managing Director, Regional Bank

“A cash strapped sponsor is not the best candidate for a partnership flip; they are better off with a sale-leaseback.” Executive Director, Non-Traditional Tax Equity Investor

“Some tax equity ask us to lend at the project level – senior secured – for capital account reasons.  But by the time you negotiate the forbearance and related debt/equity terms, you might as well be back leverage.”  Group Head, Regional Bank’s Capital Markets

“We only consider project level debt as a lender.  We have negotiated dozens of forbearance agreements with tax equity.” Banker, Specialty Bank

State of the Tax Equity Market

“There is enough [supply of] tax equity for 2017 [projects].  We are seeing some 2018 transactions being pushed by developers into 2017.”  Advisor, Boutique Accounting Firm

“We like to take our limited [annual] tax capacity and spread it over a greater volume of deals, so we prefer wind” which has a ten year production tax credit, rather than a 30 percent investment tax credit in the first year.  Managing Director, Consumer Finance Bank

“In wind, you [(i.e., the tax equity investor)] are a bigger piece of the capital stack.  In solar, it is smaller piece because the investment tax credit is all up front.  [The sponsor] wants to minimize the tax equity to maximize the back leverage, which is cheaper capital.” Advisor, Boutique Accounting Firm Continue Reading Infocast’s Solar Power Finance & Investment Summit Soundbites

“PACE” – Is it the new buzzword? Lately, it seems I keep hearing about securitizations backed by PACE financings. What is a PACE financing program, and what is happening in the securitization market?

“PACE” stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. Under PACE programs, municipalities and counties form special tax districts to help residential, commercial or industrial property owners finance energy efficient upgrades or renewable energy installations to their properties through payments of additional property taxes. While the specific details vary by state, the basic premise is that the property owner is allowed to finance 100 percent of the cost of the energy property through increased property tax assessments – the “PACE” assessments. The PACE assessments are typically for 15 to 20 years and operate similar to loan payments in that these property tax payments repay the initial financing cost for the energy upgrade. The PACE assessments, however, are legally property tax assessments and, thus, have the benefit of being secured by senior liens against the taxpayer’s property.

The way the financing works is specific to the individual programs, but the funds typically come from some form of private / public partnership, which allows the state or municipality to encourage identified property upgrades to achieve environmental and energy efficiency goals without having to raise funding, and provides investors with new opportunities to invest in a secure asset in the green energy space. The benefit to the property owner is typically the ability to realize immediate cost savings in reduced energy costs while paying for the improvement over a 15 to 20 year period, and also being able to finance 100 percent of the cost. Continue Reading “PACE” for Residential and Commercial Renewable Energy Projects – What is it?

Below are soundbites from panel discussions on September 14, 2016 at Solar Power International in Las Vegas.  The soundbites are organized by topic, rather than in chronological order, and were prepared without the benefit of a transcript or a recording.

Supply of Tax Equity Investment

“There are 32 tax equity investors in the renewables market, about 26 of those invest in solar.” — Managing Director from a Money Center Bank

“It is very challenging when syndicators are trying to bring in new investors.  Each new investor takes nine to 15 months to work through its approval issues.” — Director, Renewable Energy Investments for a Commercial Bank

“We continue to see insurance companies get into the market.  They like the asset.  You might have newcomers that invest in 20 MW of projects in commercial transactions.” — Managing Director of a Boutique Financial Advisor

“There are more investors for solar than wind.  Wind is limited to experienced project [financiers].  Overall there is enough tax equity capacity for solar.” — Managing Director of a Boutique Financial Advisor

“We prioritize tax equity investment opportunities based on:

  1. Basic project finance fundamentals – quality of the sponsor and its management team, the quality of the power purchase agreement (“PPA”), the quality of the equipment and its warranties, and pro forma stress tests.
  2. The minimum amount out the door.  For solar, we want to be investing $75 to $100 million per transaction.  If the transaction involves commercial and industrial or residential projects, we like it to take no more than six to nine months to deploy that amount.
  3. Repeat business.  Does the sponsor have a pipeline of projects, so we can reuse the papers we have” negotiated. —  Managing Director from a Money Center Bank

Continue Reading Solar Power International Panel Discussions Soundbites

On August 30, 2016, the US Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) finalized regulations that clarify the definition of real property for purposes of the real estate investment trust (“REIT”) provisions under Section 856. The final regulations generally are consistent with the proposed regulations that were released in May 2014. (See our earlier update, “Proposed Regulations Provide REITs a Framework for Solar Energy Property,” from May 14, 2014.) Certain solar industry participants were advocating for solar to be a REIT-eligible asset class in an effort to create a new market for solar projects in the event that the investment tax credit (“ITC”) declined to 10 percent after 2016. In December 2015, Congress extended the ITC with a gradual phase-down. (See our earlier update, “Certain US Energy Tax Credits Extended, But Phaseout Dates Scheduled,” from December 28, 2015.) The extension made the need to make solar a viable asset class for REITs a less pressing issue. It is fortunate for the solar industry that it does not have to rely on REITs, as the new regulations only enable REITs to own solar projects in limited situations.

The final regulations keep the facts and circumstances framework, as opposed to bright-line rules, for determining whether property is real property for purposes of Section 856. Therefore, all of the specific facts of a particular solar energy property will need to be analyzed to determine its REIT classification. The final regulations apply for taxable years beginning after August 31, 2016. Continue Reading As Expected, Final REIT Regulations Offer Little Help for Solar

 

Below are soundbites from panelists at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum Wall Street held in New York City on June 21 and 22, 2016.  The soundbites are divided by topic below: market conditions, the tax equity market, cost of capital, community solar, challenges facing the renewables market, net metering, the YieldCo market, economics for utilities and storage.

Market Conditions

“The market is long capital and short projects.”  Boutique Investment Banker

“The brightest spot in clean tech today is that panels, turbines, batteries and balance of system are all moving down in cost.” Bulge Bracket Investment Banker

“Year over year there have been very precipitous declines in the cost of these technologies.”  Boutique Investment Banker

“Before the expiration of the production tax credit, wind will reach grid parity [with electricity from natural gas] in many parts of the country.” Bulge Bracket Investment Banker

Background: The production tax credit is available for projects that “start construction” prior to 2021, and to meet the Internal Revenue Service safe harbor a wind project would have to be placed in service prior to 2026.  Our article discussing the start of construction rules for wind projects is available here.

Continue Reading Soundbites from 2016 Renewable Energy Finance Forum Wall Street

First Published in May 2014 in North American Wind Power

Many wind developers regularly require additional capital infusion and keep their eyes peeled for opportunities to raise it. Three recent trends in public equity transactions for developers are yieldcos, listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and the declining use of real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Please click this link to read the rest of the article: Article-North_American_Wind_Power_Burton_2014

This article was first published by Bloomberg BNA Daily Tax Report on February 24, 2014

In Private Letter Ruling 201404007, released Jan. 24, the Internal Revenue Service ruled favorably on a securitization structure to raise nonrecourse financing secured by cars subject to leases with a terminal rental adjustment clause (TRAC) provided for in Section 7701(h).

The full article is available here: IRS Blesses TRAC Lease Securitization 2-24-14 ready