This year has begun with a bit of a bang for solar funding, with the first Mercom Capital Group Corporate Funding report of 2017 revealing steep increases in venture capital (VC) funding, debt funding and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the sector.
Over the first quarter (Q1) of the year, the amount of corporate funding in the solar industry reached $3.2 billion, which is double that recorded in Q4 2016 ($1.6 billion). On a year-over-year (Y-o-Y) basis, that increase is 15%, up from $2.8 billion raised in Q1 2016.
Mercom Capital’s analysis includes all VC funding and public market and debt financing, and finds that the increase on the lows of Q4 2016 is largely due to more debt financing activity. “Corporate funding never reached $3 billion in any of the quarters in 2016,” says Mercom Capital CEO and founder Raj Prabhu. “M&A activity was also strong, with several large deals. Solar public companies also had a good first quarter.”
By sector, global VC finding – within which Mercom includes private equity and corporate venture capital – reached $585 million, which was a 78% increase on Q4 2016 ($329 million), albeit across the same number of deals.
Compared to last year’s Q1, VC funding was also higher (up from $406 million), although the number of deals was one lower (22 vs. 23 for Q1 2016). The vast majority of VC funding in Q1 2017 went to solar downstream companies, with the nine recorded deals generating $548 million of the total amount that changed hands.
The standout VC deal was the $200 million raised by ReNew Power Ventures, with Greenko Energy Holdings following on $155 million. A VC deal by Hero Future Energies was the third-largest ($125 million), with Silicon Ranch’s in fourth, at $55 million.
There was a slight sequential contraction in solar public market financing, with Q1 2017 registering $461 million over 13 deals, down from $615 million in 13 deals recorded in Q4 2016. However, activity Y-o-Y was way higher: in Q1 2016 a mere four public market financing deals raised just $94 million.
Debt financing comprised the bulk of the quarter’s $3.2 billion transaction volume, with 25 deals registering $2.2 million in funds – a drastic increase on Q4, when just 10 deals raised $610 million. Again, solar downstream companies accounted for the bulk of the debt financing activity.
General funding amid the large-scale solar sector in Q1 2017 held steady at $2.6 billion across 33 deals (Q4 2016 saw $3 billion in 38 deals), while for the residential and commercial sectors solar funding activity was $630 million worldwide – which was a sizable drop on the $1.5 billion registered across eight deals in Q4 2016.
M&A activity amounted to 29 transactions, up from 20 in Q4 2016 and 14 in Q1 2016. The Mercom data also tracked 233 mew large-scale solar project announcements in Q1 2017, comprising a total of 12.7 GW of new solar capacity globally.