On May 4, 2017, Maryland became the first state in the country to offer a tax credit for energy storage systems with Governor Larry Hogan’s (R) signing of Senate Bill No. 758 (available here).
The law provides a tax credit for certain costs of installing an energy storage system. Energy storage systems include systems used to store electrical energy, or mechanical, chemical, or thermal energy that was once electrical energy, for use as electrical energy at a later date or in a process that offsets electricity use at peak times. The tax credit is not limited to storage systems that are charged by renewable energy sources. The tax credit is up to $5,000 for a system installed on a residential property and the lesser of $75,000 and 30 percent of the cost of the energy storage system for a system installed on a commercial property (which presumably would include a utility). The tax credit would apply to systems installed between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2022. The tax credit may only be used to offset Maryland income tax liability (i.e., it cannot be applied against other types of Maryland taxes such as excise tax) and may not be carried forward to another taxable year. The law sets a limit of $750,000 on the aggregate tax credits issued to all taxpayers in a taxable year; such credits to be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.…
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…
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.
“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.
Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced S. 3159 (available at: www.heinrich.senate.gov/download/energystoragetaxincentiveanddeploymentact2016) to make energy storage eligible for an investment tax credit (ITC) under section 48. The bill introduced last month would make energy storage systems with a capacity of at least five kilowatt hours, regardless of whether it was supplied by a renewable resource, investment tax credit eligible. For instance, a stand-alone storage project that drew power from the grid would be ITC eligible under this bill.
The bill would also allow individuals to own a storage system with a capacity of at least three kilowatt hours used at their homes and to claim a residential energy efficient property tax credit under section 25D. Like the proposed ITC rules for storage, an individual could qualify for the credit even if the storage system was unrelated to a solar system.
Importantly, the bill has a Republican co-sponsor: Senator Dean Heller (NV). To emphasize, the bipartisan support of the bill, Senator Heller issued a press release (available at http://www.heller.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=E2A22E55-5453-4CD6-B6B7-49AF0D22F0F6). Five other Democrats co-sponsored it: Franken (MN), Merkley (OR), Reed (RI) and Hirono (HI); further, Senator King (I-ME) co-sponsored it.…