GIP launches renewable energy developer, acquires 4.7 GW of SunPower assets

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One of the world’s largest renewable energy developers and asset owners is a company that you’ve never heard of. And with good reason: it began operations last Friday.

On Friday August 31 infrastructure investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) announced the completion of its acquisition of NRG’s renewable energy business and NRG Yield. This brought in US$1.35 billion in cash to NRG and removed US$6.7 billion of the company’s debt, and gave GIP 2.2 GW of wind and 973 MW of operating solar assets – as well as over 3.5 GW of conventional generation – through NRG Yield alone.

As it did so, GIP changed the name of NRG Yield to Clearway Energy Partners, adding NRG’s renewable energy business under this new company. The company will retain NRG Renewables President Craig Cornelius as CEO at its headquarters in San Francisco, but beginning on September 17 it will retire the NYLD ticker symbol on the NASDAQ exchange, and trade under the stock symbols CWEN and CWEN.A.

GIP is the owner of Vena Energy – the former Equis Energy. Singapore-based Vena owns and operates a series of PV power plants in Japan, India, the Philippines and Thailand. It is currently developing a number of projects in Australia, and has offices out of Sydney and Brisbane. Its first Australian project set for completion is the 127 MW Tailem Bend project in South Australia.

The then Equis Energy was acquired by GIP in October 2017 in a US$5 billion deal.

4.7 GW of solar projects change hands

GIP’s purchase of NRG businesses was announced in February, and changing the name of a company that is acquired isn’t novel. The big deal revealed on Friday is that Clearview also acquired a whopping 4.7 GW of solar projects under development from SunPower, including projects in 16 U.S. states. The acquisition of most of the projects closed on Friday, with the purchase of the remaining ones to be completed in the next two months.

This move by SunPower is in line with the direction that the company has been taking for the past few years. Following the company selling off its share of YieldCo 8point3, in its Q1 earnings call SunPower communicated that it is exiting the utility scale development space. The company stated that distributed solar power’s continued high growth, and a focus on higher margin residential projects, was compelling enough to continue the exit from the utility scale market.

One factor may be tariffs. The ad valorem nature of the Section 201 import duties imposed by the Trump Administration, which means that SunPower’s more expensive, high-efficiency modules are hit harder than cheaper products. But in the residential and small commercial and industrial markets the price of modules is a smaller portion of overall system costs, meaning that the impact of tariffs is less than in utility-scale development.

When all of the assets of NRG, NRG Yield and SunPower are added up, Clearview owns 2.8 GW of operational wind, 1.1 GW of utility-scale solar and 300 MW of distributed and community solar assets – as well as a pipeline of 8.9 GW of solar and wind projects. It will also provide operations and maintenance and asset management services to 4.1 GW of projects.

Not bad as a starting point.

Edited and localised by Jonathan Gifford