Inclusive Prosperity Capital (IPC) has launched a solar power purchasing agreement (PPA) platform. The PPA will allow it to acquire, develop, construct and operate distributed solar projects for schools, multi-family housing, income-eligible senior housing, small-scale commercial properties, houses of worship, non-profits and other customers that otherwise might be overlooked by traditional financiers.
To support its nationwide push, IPC has entered into a tax equity partnership with Greenprint Capital and a debt facility partnership with the Connecticut Green Bank.
“IPC’s focus on de-risking solar projects in underserved markets is a great fit for our approach to tax equity investing,” said Antoine Bishara, principal at Greenprint Capital. The advisory and consulting firm is focused on structured tax credit and preferred equity investments in renewable energy projects.
Creating a solar PPA platform has been part of IPC’s plan since its inception in 2018. As a spin-off and strategic partner of the Connecticut Green Bank, IPC is a not-for-profit investment fund that scales clean energy financing and channels investment capital to communities that need it most.
IPC’s first solar projects, which were acquired from the Connecticut Green Bank, include rooftop solar projects on two schools, an Islamic center and a Boys and Girls Club.
The projects are all based in Connecticut and range in size from 75kW to 186kW. Solar deployments in this size range – and below – can be hard to realize efficiencies of scale. That means a lot of creditworthy potential clients may remain underserved.
“Many non-profits, affordable housing and government customers have complex structures that result in long decision-making and project development timelines,” said John D’Agostino, IPC’s director of financing programs. He added that IPC has developed solar PPA document templates for its target customers.
IPC plans to draw on the expertise of its staff, many of whom worked at Connecticut Green Bank, said Chris Magalhaes, IPC’s chief investment officer.
IPC will look beyond Connecticut to develop at least some of its solar PPA pipeline. So far, interest has been greatest in Connecticut and nearby markets like Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. IPC said it is also fielding calls from mid-Atlantic states, Michigan, Arizona, Illinois and Idaho.
Greenprint Capital’s approach to tax equity financing has helped drive IPC’s solar PPA platform, D’Agostino said. For IPC, the partnership with Greenprint will allow it to provide financing solutions to commercial and community solar developers as well as energy savings to their customers.
According to Bishara, the tax equity partnership will help bring distributed solar generation to a broader audience. Electricity is a big budget line item for potential clients in markets that IPC is targeting. Distributed generation solar projects add a level of assurance to budgeting.
And because it can be costly to underwrite small distributed generation projects, counterparties are often driven out of the solar PPA market or overlooked altogether.
“[But] it fits perfectly with what we do,” Bishara said. “Our programmatic approach to tax equity allows us to unlock a source of capital, previously unavailable to these smaller projects,” he said. These investments can also align with offtakers’ ESG (environmental, social and governance) investment objectives, he added.
“With the Boys and Girls Club [for example], it’s not just about the ‘E’, it is about the ‘S’ – the club serves the community,” Bishara said.
States and municipalities’ net-zero carbon commitments and an expanded understanding of environmental justice should also help the small solar PPA sector gain momentum, particularly in places where directives that address these issues already exist or are being introduced.
An extension or expansion of the federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar could help address both of these issues, officials say.
For its part, IPC said it will continue to operate at the nexus of clean energy and underserved markets with or without the ITC, which falls to 22% next year before disappearing for residential solar in 2022. After 2021, commercial solar ITC drops to 10% permanently.
IPC’s tax equity financing partnership with Greenprint will become obsolete if the solar ITC isn’t extended or if a storage ITC is not added.
In November, the Solar Energy Industries Association listed extending the federal solar ITC and expanding it to include storage as top priorities that the Biden Administration and the 117th Congress can act on to facilitate the U.S. transition to a carbon-free economy.
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