UK developer confirms no new large scale projects any time soon

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The latest figures published by London-based solar developer Foresight Solar and Infrastructure VCT have confirmed the PV status quo in a nation still awaiting the outcome of the Brexit impasse.

The cancellation of the ROC (Renewable Obligation Certificate) incentive scheme in April 2017 sounded the death knell for new large scale solar in the U.K. with Foresight stating it does not expect any new ground mount installations outside Northern Ireland in the “forseeable future”.

Instead, investment activity will continue to focus on the acquisition of existing projects, as Foresight has done by adding five new U.K. sites and three Italian assets during the nine-month period covered by the update – a window determined by Foresight changing its fiscal reporting year to align with the U.K. tax year.

A solar portfolio that stood at 49.3 MW at the end of June last year expanded to 78 MW by the end of March. The 5 MW Basin Bridge and 2 MW Stables Solar projects in Leicestershire were acquired in August along with the 4.5 MW Dove View and 4.3 MW Beech Farm assets in Staffordshire. The U.K. portfolio was rounded off by the addition of the 10 MW Hurcott Solar facility in Somerset last August, with all the projects bought from funds managed by Foresight.

Brexit

A 400 kW presence in Italy was expanded – via Foresight’s joint venture with EI Capital – with the addition of three new projects with a total generation capacity of 2.9 MW in Apulia and Sicily, although the decision was made to sell the smaller rooftop Telecomponenti project after the reporting period.

With a sunny nine months behind it, Foresight was able to trumpet higher-than-expected energy output from its assets and could even afford to be relaxed about the Brexit uncertainty engendered by the extension of the deadline for the U.K. to leave the EU to the end of October. “The energy market in the U.K. is closely aligned with European markets and this is not expected to change over the long term,” blithely stated the update produced by a company that felt able to issue a 3p dividend to investors during the nine-month period in question.

The only potential fly in the ointment is the balance sheet of an investor with £2.3 million ($2.8 million) in the bank and a £15 million loan due for settlement. However, when that loan has been provided by a wholly-owned subsidiary – Youtan – which has reportedly not agreed to call it in within 12 months, there is less need for panic.

No new project development

Foresight’s update added it expects to refinance the loans on its portfolio with the current lender to secure more favorable arrangements by the third quarter and it will continue to sweat its assets, albeit with the caveat some may be prepped for sale depending on market conditions.

New project development is off the table however, as the rules governing the type of investments open to venture capital trusts such as Foresight have forbid supporting energy infrastructure of any kind for some years.

There could even be an additional bonus for shareholders at some point, with the company having secured an arbitration decision that it should receive £2-2.5 million compensation after the Spanish government retroactively reduced subsidy payments for its former Spanish assets. Settlement of the claim, of course, rests in the hands of the current Spanish administration.