India: SunEdison seeking buyer for 1 GW of solar projects, ministry eyes $500m AIIB loan

Missouri-headquartered renewable energy company SunEdison hopes to offload approximately 1 GW of unfinished solar PV projects in India as it seeks to raise cash to stave off impending bankruptcy.

The troubled firm won a series of projects in a number of Indian solar auctions last year, often at strike prices deemed at the time too low to be considered attractive. In Andhra Pradesh, SunEdison won 500 MW with a bid of INR4.63/kWh ($0.0706/kWh), which prompted a flurry of pricing concern among experts.

Now, after various other SunEdison ventures appear to have hit the buffers, triggering huge losses, the company is seeking buyers for its Indian PV portfolio, estimated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) to be worth around $1.1 billion.

SunEdison is facing a technical default on around $1.4 billion in loans, and thus this move to offload its Indian projects is likely to be the result of such impending troubles. In a statement sent to Reuters, SunEdison’s president for the Asia-Pacific region, Pashupathy Gopalan, wrote: "As a business model, we continue to pursue equity partnerships in our projects to the extent allowed by the power purchase agreements."

However, having secured the bulk of its PV projects at such a low strike price, analysts have warned that the company could struggle to offload the solar assets, warning that there is very little profit to be made on such projects. SunEdison currently has around 450 MW of solar connected in India, but despite its evident faith in the Indian market has begun to pull out of the country in recent months. Last year, a proposed $4 billion manufacturing partnership with Indian firm Adani collapsed, clearing the path for China’s GCL Group to step up its presence in India.

According to reports by Reuters, Adani Group is considering purchasing SunEdison’s Indian solar portfolio.

India’s solar growth spurt

The success of India’s bold National Solar Mission (NSM), which has set a cumulative installed capacity target of 100 GW of solar PV by 2022, is heavily contingent on foreign investment, particularly from private solar firms and financing institutes.

Last week it was revealed that the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is set to loan India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (NMRE) $500 million to aid its installation plans. “In about six months, funds could start flowing from AIIB,” said MNRE joint secretary Tarun Kapur.

The Beijing-headquartered bank has a clean energy war chest of around $100 billion, and will likely approve the loan to India on a 2-2.5% interest rate, linked to LIBOR across 15 years. This financing would allow India to move forward with its solar installation aims, and comes after the government requested a further $500 million in financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

"It is not a surprise that the Indian government has asked for solar project loans right now," Vinay Rustagi of Bridge to India told pv magazine. "The sector is growing exponentially and there is expected to be constraint on domestic financing.

"I would expect that the AIIB financing is for government-developed projects, possibly owned by NTPC or Coal India. Going forward, we would expect that the Indian government will look to tap more and more into international funding institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB), AIIB, and the IFC for financing the growing renewable sector."

Erroneous reports over the weekend suggested that India’s power minister Piyush Goyal had said that India could hit 100 GW of installed solar PV capacity by the end of next year, 2017. However, Goyal quickly took to Twitter to dismiss these reports, claiming he had been misquoted and reiterating what he meant during a speech at Mumbai University.

"Solar generation capacity installation target of 20 GW to be achieved by 2017 itself, and 100 GW by 2022," he wrote. The MNRE has bid out 19 GW of solar projects, Goyal confirmed, while the nation’s cumulative solar PV capacity stands at around 6 GW currently.