Tag: Finance

Inspiring Young Women To Pursue Careers in Energy

At last night’s PennWell Awards Ceremony, Kim Greene, a 24-year veteran of the power industry, was named the POWER-GEN 2015 Woman of the Year.

Greene began her career as an engineer with Southern Company in 1991 and ascended to leadership roles at Mirant and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), before returning to Southern Company Services in 2013 to become President and CEO. She was a keynote speaker at POWER-GEN International in 2014.

Today, she serves as chief operating officer of Southern Company and is responsible for overseeing system operations, which include generation, transmission, engineering and construction services, system planning, and research and environmental affairs, as well as the company’s competitive wholesale generation businesses.

Despite Oil and Stock Market Crash, Solar Sector Funding Up in Q3 2015

Total global corporate funding in the solar sector, including venture capital/private equity (VC), debt financing, and public market financing raised by public companies, came to $6.2 billion, compared to $5.9 billion in Q2 2015, according to Mercom Capital Group’s report on funding and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for the solar sector in the third quarter of 2015.

Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group said in a release that Q3 was “eventful” especially regarding the equity markets.  “Although solar power demand continues to grow, solar stocks have made a complete U-turn in the last three months, affecting public market financing, which was down by about a billion dollars excluding IPOs,” he added.

VC funding increased to $257 million in 15 deals, compared to $142 million in 24 deals in Q2 2015. Solar downstream companies continued to draw most of the VC investments with $114 million in seven deals.

PACE Finance Opening Doors for C&I Solar In California

With its excellent renewable policy, California leads the nation in solar. Over the years both the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the California Solar Initiative drove utility scale and residential solar deployment. But without the same drivers pushing commercial and industrial buildings to go solar, California’s offices, warehouses, hospitals, farms, factories, universities, hotels and restaurants have lagged behind.

Now that appears to be turning around fast. A growing number of leaders in the solar industry see a very bright future for Commercial and Industrial (C&I) solar, beginning in 2015. A lot has to do with the introduction of PACE financing for C&I solar.

Vivint Solar recently unveiled $150 million in financing for the C&I solar market together with Sungevity. Vivint, currently valued at $1 billion, is already a major player in residential solar. Through its parent company Blackstone Group, Vivint obtained an inside track to almost $100 billion worth of real estate assets in a vast assortment of C&I properties. And with its $2 billion acquisition in July by SunEdison, it is clear that this market is valued.

Russia’s Bashkortostan Set To Harness Solar Power

Following the launch of a 5-MW solar plant in May, which is the first solar industrial facility in the European part of Russia, Bashkortostan, the country’s autonomous republic situated between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains, has set eyes on adding another seven PV facilities of a combined capacity of 59 MW by 2018.

Financing Electric Vehicle Markets in New York and Other States

The process of sowing the seeds of electric vehicle infrastructure — and thereby creating a backbone of charging stations that can support these vehicles — is still in its infancy. A new report outlines the technologies and business models necessary to ramp up growth in the electric vehicle (EV) market in the United States. It also explores the relationship between charging stations and consumer purchases of EVs.

 

Competition in Booming Energy Storage Market Continues To Heat Up

Australia, the sunniest continent, is luring solar battery suppliers from Tesla Motors Inc. to LG Corp. as the global roll out of the technology for home and business power storage gathers pace.

At stake is a domestic market that could be worth A$24 billion ($18 billion), according to Morgan Stanley. Australia leads the world in putting solar panels on roofs, and by 2040, about one in two homes are forecast to rely on sun power.

Elon Musk’s Tesla plans early next year to bring its new batteries to Australia, which will join Germany as its first two markets outside the U.S. LG Chem will offer new technology to Australian homes in August, while Panasonic Corp. plans to begin selling its batteries in the country in October.

“Australia has all the criteria that you would look for — high sunshine, high energy prices and low financing costs,” Michael Parker, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in Hong Kong, said by phone. “It’s a good test market.”

With solar power set to draw $3.7 trillion in investment through 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, interest in power storage is surging.

LG Chem wants to capture 30 percent of the Australian market, the South Korean company said in an e-mail response to questions. The industry could could grow 15-fold in the next two years to more than 30,000 storage systems, it said.

Storage Units

Samsung SDI Co., meanwhile, is testing its storage units with Australian retailer Origin Energy Ltd., which expects to offer the products to customers later this year, and AU Optronics Corp. of Taiwan is working with AGL Energy Ltd.

Government subsidies and falling prices fueled a wave of growth in solar panel installations in Australia, and the country is set to see further expansion. About 6 million, or half of Australian homes, are forecast to have solar systems by 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“The ability to store the energy that’s generated by solar is a huge opportunity within this market,” Heath Walker, Tesla’s marketing manager in Melbourne, said by phone. In coming months, the company plans to unveil battery partnerships with utilities or solar developers in Australia, he said.

Battery storage does face obstacles, though, with the cost and the size of the systems needed to maintain a reliable power source deterring some consumers, the Grattan Institute found.

Falling Tariffs

“Everybody says it’s an emerging market, but I’m not sure many people have bought batteries yet,” Origin’s Managing Director Grant King said in an interview. “Will we see a wholesale migration of customers off the grid because of batteries? My answer is no.”

Declining battery costs, surging electricity prices and falling tariffs for feeding excess power to the grid could drive storage, the Australian Energy Market Operator found.

Battery storage will allow homes with solar panels to store excess electricity for later use, reducing peak power consumption and potentially energy costs, Panasonic said.

“Storage is coming,” Panasonic’s local Managing Director Paul Reid said in a June 2 interview. “There may be things that impact the speed of the roll out, but it will dramatically change the landscape of the energy sector in Australia.”

C&I Solar Sector Could See Huge Growth in Next Few Years

Investments in commercial and industrial (C&I) solar energy projects (50kW-2MW) by U.S. corporations is poised to soar, according to a new market research report commissioned by Santa Barbara-based Wiser Capital. More than 60 percent of managers with influence over corporate investments intend to put company capital to work by investing in solar energy in the U.S., according to a survey conducted by OnePoll for Wiser Capital’s “2015 Solar Investment Index. “

 

One-third of corporate managers surveyed said their companies would make their first solar energy investments within the next year. This doesn’t appear to be a “flash in the pan” investment phenomenon either: No less than 83 percent of the 100 small to mid-size company managers surveyed said their commercial organizations will make investing in the solar energy sector a priority by 2020.

 

Aside from contributing to national and international initiatives addressing climate change and environmental resources degradation, the potential to earn comparatively high, stable and longer term returns on investment (ROI) is a primary motivating factor for U.S. corporate investors, Wiser Capital highlights in a press release.

 

“We have known the demand for mid-scale solar investment was growing in the U.S and it’s clear the boom has in fact already begun,” Wiser Capital executive director Nathan Homan stated. “We are certain that investment in solar for commercial businesses will soon be a mainstream venture because investors have new tools and resources at their disposal streamlining and clarifying the process.”

 

Commercial Solar: High Returns, High Profile Investments

 

More than 6 in 10 (63 percent) of U.S. businesses surveyed for Wiser Capital’s “2015 Solar Investment Index” expect investing in solar energy will generate high ROIs.

 

Solar energy investments by high-profile, market leaders such as Google, Apple and Tesla are creating a sense of urgency and forcing U.S. corporations to take a serious look at the solar market, Wiser Capital points out. This being the case, the prospect of solar energy investing becoming genuinely mainstream is not far off.

 

Commercial solar investments can range from investing in the shares of individual solar energy companies, exchange-traded and/or index funds and “yieldcos” (yield companies) to investing in solar energy projects directly, Wiser Capital’s directors of strategic affairs Megan Birney elaborated in an interview.

 

Overcoming Obstacles To Solar Energy Investing

 

Wiser Capital’s latest Solar Investment Index also points out perceived obstacles to investing in solar energy. Lack of standardization and unclear investment policies among corporate investors surveyed has held back nearly half (46 percent) of them from making investments.

 

An inability to accurately and comprehensively assess the various risks of making solar energy investments prevented more than 4 in 10 (43 percent) from committing capital. Nearly one-third (31 percent) held back because they found it difficult to evaluate the viability of individual investments in solar energy.

 

Wiser Capital also identified what would overcome corporate investor hesitations about the solar industry.  Seven of 10 survey participants (69 percent) said they would be more likely to invest in solar this year if there was an easier, standardized means of risk assessment. More than half (54 percent) said they would be likely to make solar investments this year if there was an easier way to find solar energy project partners.

 

For its part, Wiser Capital developed an information systems platform that automates the process of evaluating and carrying out solar energy investments. Key features of the tool include investment-grade financial modeling, a risk rating system, and a Wiser Solar Asset Rating (WSAR) Score. “We are an investment firm. Our software helps us understand the market, and it standardizes and streamlines the investment risk assessment and overall investment process,” Birney said.

 

Lead image: Soaring markets. Credit Shutterstock.

Listen Up: Charging Your Electric Vehicle

Electric vehicles are great: they’re affordable, great for the environment and low maintenance. And where electric rates are low — or if you have rooftop solar power — EVs are cheaper to drive per mile than gas-powered cars. But you have to think about how you will charge your EV: there are only a few thousand public charging locations in the U.S. compared to 100,000 gas stations.