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Financing Photovoltaic Power Plants Update on Risk Assessment and the Role of Insurance Coverage

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Eingestellt 16, Mai 2014 in Photovoltaik von Thomas C. Sauer (16 Punkte)

Kurzfassung des Vortrags auf dem 14. Forum Solarpraxis, Berlin, 22. November 2013



Following the Lehman crisis in 2008, project leverage financing has become increasingly cumbersome as banks started to become more demanding to finance photovoltaic (“PV”) projects in particular when the project was the only security that was offered by the project owner. The prevailing Euro crisis and continuous adhoc changes in government support policies for PV are impacting the entire PV sector with a challenge that is nearly impossible to digest on such a short notice.

At the same time, the number of PV parks exposing a financial challenge by not delivering projected returns has increased to a number that is no longer insignificant. Even full equity investors have become more careful as the number of PV projects already experiencing or are in danger of approaching a default situation is increasing. Whether from the perspective of a PV project owner or from the viewpoint of a financing bank, what counts is the actual return. Some real cases show that even in a seemingly easy business case such as running a PV project with a 20+ years government guaranteed feed-in-tariff, actual numbers may be quite different from what has been predicted on paper at the outset of a project.

A further aspect having shown up on the scene is given by the likelihood of manufacturers to survive in the current adverse market environment that is believed to prevail for another 12 to 24 months. This evolution raises the question about the value of all the warranties and guarantees that manufacturers have generously adopted to promote their product in an ever increasing competition come to mind, and with it comes the question about what if there will be warranty claims after the particular manufacturer that has produced the modules of a PV project no longer exists.

An insurance coverage seems to be the best solution to cover this type of risk, and for a long time there has been none available to cover the particular item of performance warranty. Today, many performance warranty insurances seem to be on the market, however, there are fundamental differences between the actual coverage of these insurances from many aspects. The particular question arises on how tangible an insurance coverage may be when the case is around the corner or when it has already materialized.

Besides discussing the basic financial implications particularly from a bankers point of view, this paper will expand on a comparison of insurance packages available on the market as far as it relates to those claiming to cover the performance warranty of any given manufacturer or PV project. Most importantly, it will as well talk about the prerequisites to enable a financially successful operation of a PV project throughout its lifetime from the perspective of a bank and from a project owner.

Finally, examples about successful and unsuccessful PV projects will be provided, possible root causes for failure will be outlined, and a comparison between PV projects with and without sufficient insurance will be shown including several case studies. Energy supply is about predictability, risk mitigation, and doing a thorough job in project preparation, execution, and power plant operation.

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