Below are soundbites from panelists who spoke at Infocast’s Wind Finance & Investment Summit on February 6 and 7 in Carlsbad, CA.  The attendance at the event appeared strong, and the mood was generally optimistic.

Despite the title of the conference being wind, many of the panelists touched on solar and storage, so readers who do not work in the wind industry may nonetheless find some points of interest below.

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.

Topics covered below include the tax equity market, the 2020 soft deadline for the full production tax credit (“PTC”), the impact of the PTC phase out, PG&E’s bankruptcy, storage and more.

State of the Tax Equity Market

“There was $12 billion of combined wind and solar tax equity investment in 2018.  This up from $10 billion of tax equity investment in 2017; however, the actual new volume was down in 2018 as $3 billion of the $12 billion in 2018 was secondary market transactions” (i.e., one tax equity investor selling down to another tax equity investor).  Managing Director, Money Center Bank

“Tax equity has done well in terms of how it has worked out for the banks that invested in it.”  Tax Equity Head, Corporate Investor
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Here’s a presentation that Joseph Sebik, CPA of Siemens Financial Services and I gave to the Energy Subcommittee of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association on January 22: Tax Equity Energy Subcommittee 1-22-19 of ELFA.

Despite being to a leasing trade association, the focus of the presentation is the partnership flip structure.  The presentation

I am pleased to announce that I will be speaking in an upcoming Strafford live webinar, “Tax Reform and Renewable Energy: Planning Techniques, 100% Expensing, BEAT, Tax Credits and Interest Deduction Limitations” scheduled for Wednesday, January 16, 1:00 pm-2:30 pm Eastern.

As a reader of this blog, you are eligible to attend this

Below are soundbites from panel discussions at Solar Power International on September 25 and 26 in Anaheim, California. Overall the conference was well-attended and the panelists and audience seemed optimistic regarding current and future opportunities.

The soundbites are organized by topic, rather than presented chronologically.  The soundbites were prepared without the benefit of a recording or a transcript and have been edited for clarity.

Topics covered include tax equity, the solar start of construction rules, the investment tax credit (“ITC”) and tax basis risk after the Federal Circuit’s opinion in Alta Wind, the inverted lease structure, back-leverage debt, storage, community solar and merchant projects.

Macroeconomic Factors for Solar and Tax Equity

“Rising corporate profits have caused more tax equity to enter the market.  That has shifted the negotiating leverage to the sponsors.”  Managing Director, Money Center Bank

“Tax equity always needs to fund around 40 percent of the capital stack in order to use the tax benefits efficiently.”  Managing Director, Money Center Bank “Equipment costs continue to come down.  Module prices are back to where they were before the tariffs at 30 to 40 cents a Watt.”  President, Diversified Solar Services Company

“There are greater economies of scale for utility scale solar than for residential or C&I.  As module prices drop faster than that customer acquisition costs, utility scale will become a larger portion of the market.”  President, Diversified Solar Services Company

“I am very bullish on next year.  This has been the best year ever from a volume perspective, not from an income perspective, because the market is causing us to charge less.”  Managing Director, Regional Bank

“Falling electricity prices aren’t leading to sponsors raising less capital, because sponsors have been beating down lenders and service providers.”  Managing Director, Regional Bank

“Capital providers are taking more risk for less return.”  Managing Director, Regional Bank

“Residential solar debt has become an accepted asset class.” Managing Director, Regional Bank

“Soft costs, such as marketing, legal, accounting and tax advice, are five to seven percent of a solar project’s cost in Europe and Asia; they are 35 percent of solar project’s cost here; we need to attack that.”  President, Solar Developer
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Mayer Brown’s David K. Burton and Jeffrey G. Davis both Tax Transactions & Consulting partners and part of the firm’s Renewable Energy group co-hosted a heavily attended webinar on how tax reform is impacting the tax equity market and certain renewable energy structures with Vadim Ovchinnikov, CFA, CPA and Gintaras Sadauskas of Alfa Energy Advisors.

Please join Mayer Brown and Alfa Energy Advisors for a webinar.  The webinar will address how tax reform is impacting the tax equity market and certain structures in particular.  Additional topics include:

  • The latest industry trends
  • New bonus depreciation rules and their impact on tax equity transactions and modeling
  • Compressed financing margins for wind and

Below are soundbites from panelists from the Renewable Energy Finance Forum (“REFF”) Wall Street on June 19 and 20. The mood was upbeat.  There were many references to a “wall of cash chasing projects” as a metaphor for how competitive it is to win bids to finance or purchase projects.

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.

The topics covered include the tax equity, debt and M&A markets, C&I solar, offshore wind, bonus depreciation, storage, YieldCos and others.

Tax Equity Market

“Solar tax equity is 30 to 38 percent of the capital stack of a project.  Wind tax equity is 47 to 62 percent of the capital stack of a project.”  – Managing Director, Boutique Investment Bank

“We are seeing a lot more wind.  We are using our tax equity capacity in wind in 2018.  Solar is looking good for 2019 and beyond.”  Managing Director, Trust Company

“This year we will invest more in wind than in solar.” – Managing Director, Money Center Bank

“We are seeing tax equity portfolios that are seasoned trade in a secondary market.  [Generally These are tax equity portfolios] that haven’t flipped on time or that [have the benefit of material cash distributions] but not tax” credits.  – Managing Director, American Multinational Financial Services Company

“There is more tax equity now than there was before tax reform.”  Managing Director, REIT

“2018 is a slow down due to tax reform and tariffs.”  Managing Director, National Bank

“There is a lot less tax equity capacity due to the lower tax rate.” – Managing Director, American Multi-National Investment Bank

[Explained: there may be more tax equity investors in the market than last year; however, last year the corporate tax rate was 35 percent, and this year it is 21 percent, so a typical tax equity investor has 40 percent less tax appetite (and ability to invest in tax equity) in 2018 than it did in 2017.]

“If you are in BEAT [(i.e., the base erosion anti-avoidance tax in enacted as part of 2018 tax reform)], you cannot compete in tax equity.  A couple of investors were hit with BEAT and exited.” – Managing Director, American Multi-National Investment Bank

“We get ten requests for tax equity a week and say ‘yes’ to less than one a week.  We have to prioritize opportunities.”  – Managing Director, American Multi-National Investment Bank
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In a letter dated May 8, 2018, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in support of his state’s coal industry, urges the U.S. Department of Treasury (“Treasury”) to make significant changes to the existing “beginning of construction” guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) in a series of notices (“IRS Notices”).  The IRS Notices include industry-friendly

On June 22, 2018, the IRS released Notice 2018-59 (the “Guidance”).  The Guidance provides rules to determine when construction begins with respect to investment tax credit (“ITC”) eligible property, such as solar projects.  The Guidance was much awaited by the solar industry because the date upon which construction begins governs the determination of the percentage level of the ITC, which is ratcheted down for projects that begin construction after 2019.

In addition to applying to solar and (fiber-optic solar), the Guidance applies to the following energy generation technologies: geothermal, fuel cell, microturbine, combined heat and power and small wind.

Overview of Beginning of Construction

The ITC percentage for a solar project is determined based on the year in which construction of the project begins, provided the solar project is also placed in service before January 1, 2024, as follows: (i) before January 1, 2020, 30%, (ii) in 2020, 26%, (iii) in 2021, 22% and (iv) any time thereafter (regardless of the year in which the solar project is placed in service), 10%.

The Guidance is quite similar to existing guidance for utility scale wind projects.  The utility scale wind guidance is discussed in our 2016 Update.  As expected and consistent with the wind guidance, the Guidance provides two means for establishing the beginning of construction of a solar project (and other ITC technology projects): (i) engaging in significant physical work either directly or by contract the “Physical Work Method”) or (ii) paying or incurring (depending on the taxpayer’s method of accounting) five percent of the ultimate tax basis of the project (the “Five Percent Method”).[1]  As is the case with wind, the Guidance provides that the IRS will apply strict scrutiny of the facts and circumstances to determine if the project was continuously constructed from the deemed beginning of construction date through the date the project is placed in service.[2]

Four Year Placed-in-Service Window

The wind guidance provides a four year window for the project to be completed and to avoid the scrutiny as to whether the construction was continuous.   There had been speculation that the window for solar (or at least some classes of solar) would be shorter because the time to construct solar projects (especially rooftop solar) is generally shorter than the time to construct a wind project.  In what is a relief to the solar industry, the Guidance provides solar, and the other ITC technologies, a four year window as well.       
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Today, the House voted 227 to 303 in favor of the tax reform bill agreed to by the conference committee.  No Democrats voted for the House bill, and 12 Republicans from high tax states voted against it.  The Senate is expected to vote later this evening to approve it; it is possible that the president could sign the bill as early as tomorrow.

The enacted legislation is expected to be identical to the bill approved by the conference committee.  Our analysis of the conference committee’s bill’s impact on the renewable energy market is below, which is followed by a chart that summarizes the relevant provisions in each of the three bills.
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