The government of Crimea is considering nationalizing the local assets of Austrian PV company Activ Solar due to the group's huge debts to Russian banks, according to Sergey Aksenov, head of Crimea and the region's defacto prime minister.
Speaking on Russian television broadcaster Channel 1, Aksenov said Activ Solar's current debts to Russian banks, including the country's largest lender, Sberbank of Russia, and VTB and VEB, are estimated at $300 million.
He added that if the Russian government refused to introduce green tarriffs for solar power generation in Crimea, Activ Solar, which currently operates 400 MW of solar power capacity in the region, would not be able to pay off its debts.
Activ Solar has constructed an estimated 407 MW of solar capacity in Crimea, 227.3 MW of which has been connected to the grid. However, Activ Solar has rejected the Crimean government's statements about the company's multi-million dollar debts to Russian banks and says it does not own any completed installations in the region. "These statements from the Crimean government are incorrect," said a company representative. "Activ Solar is not a shareholder of completed solar parks on the Crimean Peninsula."
The status of the company's uncompleted solar parks in the region and their financing remains unclear.
Activ Solar operates about 250 MW in Ukraine.
Before the annexation of Crimea, operation of the Crimean solar power stations was provided by feed-in tariffs that paid 0.446 per kilowatt hour — significantly higher than the Russian rates of RUB 1.50 (0.0131) per kilowatt hour.
After the annexation of Crimea, the Ukranian government stopped FIT payments, which resulted in the suspension of Activ Solar's solar power stations. Despite the fact that Russia agreed to increase the tarriff up to RUB 3.42 per kilowatt hour, it is still significantly lower than Ukraine's green tarriff, which will make future operation of Activ Solar's solar plants unprofitable. This, according to Aksenov, may result in the bankruptcy of the company and the sale of its assets to creditors.
Meanwhile, the Russian government has no plans for further increases of green tarriffs for domestic solar power plants but is planning to design other additional measures of solar power generation in Crimea.
Among the potential measures are subsidization of interest rates on loans provided to producers of solar energy and sale of so-called green certificates.