Mercom Capital Group, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, has released its report on funding and mergers & acquisitions (M&A) activity for the solar sector in 2016.
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 $9.1 billion, compared to $25.3 billion in 2015, a 64 per cent drop.
“It was a tough year for solar companies in terms of fundraising even though demand was robust. Several factors made 2016 a volatile year for the sector,” commented Raj Prabhu, CEO and Co-founder of Mercom Capital Group. “The Chinese module price crash, the slowdown in US rooftop solar, competitive auctions, net metering uncertainty, high debt levels and lack of profits all contributed to a challenging year across the solar supply chain. However, 2017 looks better than expected as lower module prices are expected to boost installation levels,” he further commented.
Global VC investments came to $1.25 billion in 77 deals in 2016, compared to $1.1 billion in 83 deals in 2015.
Solar downstream companies accounted for 80 per cent of VC funding in 2016, with $985 million of the $1.3 billion raised. Investments in PV technology companies came to $97 million and thin-film companies brought in $95 million. Balance of Systems (BoS) companies raised $37 million. Service providers raised $24 million. In one deal each, the CPV category raised $10 million and the CSP category raised $2.3 million.
Among the top VC deals in 2016, the largest was the $300 million raised by Sunnova Energy, followed by the $220 million raised by Solar Mosaic. Origis Energy and Silicon Ranch each raised $100 million.
There were 100 investors that participated in funding rounds in 2016, with five involved in multiple rounds: Energy Access Ventures, ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies, International Finance Corporation (IFC), KawiSafi Ventures, and Neo Solar Power.
Public market financing was lower this year with $1.8 billion in 27 deals, compared to the 2015 record of $6 billion in 38 deals. There were three IPOs which brought in $230 million — they were BCPG (a subsidiary of Bangchak Petroleum), Azure Power, and Ripasso Energy. Four yieldcos raised public market financing. There was no IPO activity by yieldcos in 2016.
Debt financing in 2016 totaled $6 billion compared to the $18.3 billion in 2015. There were three securitization deals in 2016 totaling $387 million. SolarCity raised a total of $234.6 million in two securitization deals and Shenzhen Energy had one securitization deal for $152 million.
Announced large-scale project funding in 2016 came to $9.4 billion in 133 deals this year, compared to 2015 with $11.6 billion in 124 deals. A total of 153 investors funded about 5.9 GW of large-scale solar projects this year.
The top investors for large-scale project funding were Santander, which invested in eight projects, followed by Bpifrance, Natixis and NORD/LB which invested in five projects each.
There was a total of $4.9 billion raised in 30 residential and commercial solar project funds in 2016 compared to $5.7 billion raised in 24 funds in 2015. SolarCity, Sunrun, Solar Mosaic, Spruce Finance, and Tabuchi Electric were the top fundraisers in 2016. Since 2009, solar residential and commercial firms offering lease, PPA and loans have raised more than $22.5 billion. In the last three quarters of 2016, loans made up almost 47 per cent of residential/commercial funds announced.
There were 68 corporate M&A transactions in the solar sector in 2016 compared to 81 transactions in 2015. Solar downstream companies were involved in 38 of these transactions. BayWa r.e., DNV GL, Golden Concord Holdings, and Voltalia acquired two companies each. The largest and the most notable transaction in 2016 was the $2.1 billion acquisition of SolarCity by Tesla Motors.
There were a record 218 large-scale solar project acquisitions for more than 12.2 GW, compared to 2015 when 12.7 GW changed hands in 204 transactions.
Mercom also tracked 133 large-scale project announcements worldwide in Q4 2016 totaling 5.8 GW and 826 project announcements totaling 40.4 GW for all of 2016.