Green Investing | January 24, 2012 |
Who Were the Clean Energy Money-Tree Shakers?
by Pete Danko
Earlier this month Bloomberg New Energy Finance said global clean energy investment in 2011 shot up to a record $260 billion – a 5 percent increase over 2010 and almost five times the total of $53.6 billion in 2004. Now the news and analysis service has pegged the firms and individuals who were the biggest players in making that happen. And it’s a whole different cast than the one that led the way in 2010.
“This is the seventh year we have prepared annual league tables showing the most active deal-makers in the sector,” Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement. “What is striking is the amount of change among the leading players, reflecting the turbulent year we have just been through in the clean energy sector.”
The leaders (see them all in this PDF) were a diverse lot, as well. Among them, Blomberg said, was the U.S. Federal Financing Bank in arranging asset finance, U.K.-based Terra Firma Capital Partners in venture capital and private equity investment, and China-based Global Law Office in the public markets.
The U.S. Federal Financing Bank was especially dominant in asset finance, providing $10.14 billion in credit in 13 deals, adding up to just shy of a 20 percent share of the market. Which might reasonably prompt this question among many readers: What or who is the U.S. Federal Financing Bank?
Well, to Fox News it’s a “Secret Government Bank That’s Financing More Solyndras.” Hmm. While it’s not widely known, “secret” seems not to be quite the right word for an institution that puts out monthly reports detailing its doings.
As the bank explains on its website, it is a government corporation that, among other activities, “borrows from Treasury and lends to Federal agencies and private borrowers that have federal guarantees.” For years, that meant being involved heavily in rural utility financing – and it still does, with around half of the bank’s $58.4 billion holdings in that category, as of Oct. 31, 2011. The post office is in for $13.1 billion, as well.
But what’s raised the ire of some conservatives is that the bank, during the Obama administration, became the lender for the companies getting money through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing direct loan program ($5.1 billion as of Oct. 31), and also did some of the lending for the Section 1705 guaranteed loan program ($2.2 billion) for clean energy development.
Bloomberg cited the loan guarantees for the BrightSource Ivanpah concentrating solar plant and the Agua Caliente solar PV plant (which Warren Buffett recently bought into) as boosting the Federal Financing Bank to a leadership position in clean energy finance in 2011.
There was a caveat to the list of the top 20 asset financing arrangers, however: “Chinese (and other) state owned banks have also been active in this period and may have featured more prominently than shown in this table, but transparency on these deals is often limited.”
Also notable in the Bloomberg tallies was NRG Energy, the Princeton-based utility, taking the top spot in grabbing ownership stakes in projects, with $6.46 billion poured into five investments. All were in the solar sector.
The 2011 Clean Energy and EST League Tables are based on the largest database of financial transactions in these sectors, Bloomberg said. It’s white pair with the full listing of leaders is available online as a 26-page PDF.Reprinted with permission from EarthTechling