Global renewable energy developer SunEdison has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, bringing to an end weeks of speculation over the financial future of the company.
A Securities and Exchange Commission filing made today confirmed that SunEdison had secured US$300 million in debtor-in-possession financing from various first and second lien lenders, which will allow it to continue building and operating projects and generate as much as possible from existing pipelines.
Ahmad Chatila, SunEdison chief executive officer said: “Our decision to initiate a court-supervised restructuring was a difficult but important step to address our immediate liquidity issues. The court process will allow us to right-size our balance sheet and reduce our debt, providing the opportunity to support the business going forward while focusing on our core strengths.
“It also will facilitate our continued work towards transforming the Company into a more streamlined and efficient operator, shedding non-core assets as well as taking other steps to help us get the most value out of our technological and intellectual property. As a result of this process, we expect that SunEdison will be in an even better position over the long term to utilise our capabilities in the renewable energy sector in service of our customers, business partners, and employees,” he said.
While SunEdison’s bankruptcy will be significant news for the global renewables industry, the development is unlikely to have much of an impact on the UK solar market specifically.
SunEdison had been considerably active in the UK prior to last year’s subsidy cuts, but withdrew from the market almost completely in August last year, resulting in the collapse of residential installer Mark Group.
Almost all of the ground-mount assets it had developed had been transferred to its international yieldco TerraForm Global, which was not included in the bankruptcy filing today.
The only two completed projects still owned by SunEdison are a 31MW project near Tewkesbury and a 7.4MW project near Barry in south Wales.
Snap Analysis: Finlay Colville, head of Solar Intelligence:
SunEdison's entry into the UK segment occurred in 2013, when the company acquired a package of four shovel-ready sites from one of the UK's established pure-play developers. This 55MW portfolio was subsequently built out and offloaded to a recognised asset holder in the UK, with the sites all accredited under 1.6 ROCs.
This initial success, in buying, building and offloading sites continued in earnest under 1.4 ROCs, with SunEdison mostly in the market for developed sites where finished assets were then folded under the TerraForm yieldco.
While operating with a somewhat less aggressive approach to site acquisition in the past 12 months, SunEdison has nonetheless still enabled in excess of 50MW, with a return to the sites being put into the market for buyers, as opposed to pre-destined for purchase by TerraForm.
During these three years, SunEdison effectively accumulated one of the largest portfolio of sites where it was still responsible for lead-EPC duties under O&M contract, and it is this aspect of the business that is likely to be under review by site owners. The impact however is likely to be minimal, as most of the asset holders in the UK have already signalled their intent to shift resources to having a greater degree of control over sites owned. It is unlikely that SunEdison would have been kept on as O&M provider outside of the initial contract period.
SunEdison was also sitting on rights for a bunch of solar farms, some of which would appear to be credible offerings for build out over the next 11 months before 31 March 2017. However, given the level of site trading that has been going on within the UK market in the past six months, potential buyers have been coming on and off SPVs with alarming frequency. In this context, the developers still holding the cards on these sites – or indeed SunEdison if site rights have been fully transferred – will have little problems offloading sites, so long as they meet the due-diligence tests under 1.2 ROC accreditation and grandfathering.
The other segment of the UK market that SunEdison had toyed with is the commercial rooftop space. Here, unlike the ground-mount activity, there are very few positives to report on in hindsight, with efforts to grow business through acquisition or installer partnerships having rather imploded well before now.
While SunEdison maintained an office staff in the city of London, the company had not invested in UK-based EPC or O&M staffing. Therefore, the impact of SunEdison no longer being an EPC (albeit for just another 11 months) is likely to be felt in southern Europe, in particular Spain, where sub-contractors and supply-chains were often called upon to assist in UK solar farm build-outs.
When looking specifically at SunEdison's track-record in UK solar farms in the past few years, the operations of the company have been extremely professional and highly competent, something echoed by many of the developers that had dealings with them either buying or selling sites. Alongside Vogt Solar, Belectric and Conergy, SunEdison brought to the UK an impeccable array of solar farm building skills that were somewhat lacking in the early days of the UK market back in 2012.
Today, however, companies like Anesco, British Solar Renewables and Solarplicity have rather taken over and are the ones thriving today in the UK market, much in the same way that SunEdison was back in 2014.