Kathryn Meng Elmes
How More Schools Can Access Renewable Energy
Thoughtful collaboration between a developer, financier, offtaker, and insurance provider enabled the development and procurement of 603kW of clean, renewable, solar electricity for Arizona schools.
When it comes to education, every dollar counts. School funding constraints have been a part of the national discourse for years. The Atlantic recently elaborated on how the covid-19 pandemic has further strained the American school system – noting the decades-long decline in teacher relative pay and status, educator resignations, and more. It is critical to ensure that as much of the state funding that supports schools goes towards educational needs.
Utility costs for schools are not often discussed and rarely make headlines. With the rising costs of fuel, that may soon change as schools begin to feel the added financial strain. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate these costs via electrification, energy efficiency, and renewable energy expansion.
Last year, Arizona charter schools, including The Daisy Education Corporation, saw the opportunity to procure clean energy while reducing costs. Steamboat Solar, a renewable energy developer, wanted to help.
“We knew that we could provide these schools with even more significant cost savings if we could access competitive financing rates.” - Stuart Kronick, Co-Founder of Steamboat Solar LLC
Steamboat reached out to Energetic Insurance with hopes that our policy could help them access debt capital for these schools which did not carry a public investment grade rating.
Energetic Insurance assessed the project, offtakers, and related risks and saw a promising opportunity. The charter schools at hand were competitive, highly rated, had long operational histories, growing enrollment, and were ranked among the top schools in Arizona (as measured by standardized test scores). Charter schools in the Daisy Education Corporation’s network provide a rigorous college-preparatory education focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Also appealing was the location and policy environment. Thanks to the Arizona’s net metering policies, utilities would acquire any energy generated above and beyond the school’s usage, increasing the utility’s renewable energy portfolio, contributing to state renewable energy targets, and ultimately providing benefits to the project developers. This has the added benefit of mitigating the risk of non-payment of project debt. Arizona’s strong commitment to solar is demonstrated by the favorable development environment it has curated. The state has provided solar tax incentives, including tax credits, solar equipment sales tax and equipment property tax exemptions, and offers net metering. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration “In 2020, Arizona ranked fourth in the nation in solar-powered electricity generation at utility-scale and small-scale installations. Solar energy provided the state with more power than all of Arizona's other nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources combined.”
Live Oak Bank, an experienced renewable energy lender saw the value in this project.
"We knew the Steamboat team to be diligent and sophisticated. We were glad to help finance this project, even more as we were able to support educational institutions.” - Derek Welsh, Vice President and Head of Distributed Energy Finance at Live Oak Bank
With EneRate Credit Cover, Steamboat Solar was able to access affordable financing via Live Oak Bank. The project was enabled by smaller, regional O&M contractors, supporting local jobs, and further supporting the local economy.
Ultimately, Steamboat Solar was able to present an electricity procurement option that saves the schools tens of thousands of dollars relative to the regular utility rate over the lifetime of the system. Each dollar saved enables state and taxpayer dollars to go a bit further in directly contributing to childhood education.
If you are a developer seeking competitive project financing, reach out – we’re glad to discuss and make introductions to Live Oak. If you are a school seeking solar, contact our friends at Steamboat – they are there to help.
Energetic Insurance is a Managing General Underwriter (MGU) with a novel, data-driven approach to develop new risk management products to unlock exponential growth in the renewable energy industry. Their EneRate Credit Cover®, unlocks renewable and energy efficiency project financing for unrated and below investment grade counter parties by covering counterparty credit risk.
Steamboat Solar LLC (“Steamboat”) is a project developer and tax equity provider who works with sponsors, developers, and offtakers to structure, develop, finance, and manage commercial solar projects. Steamboat owns and operates solar projects and provides both tax equity and financing for developers. In addition to newly developed solar projects, Steamboat provides liquidity to legacy solar installation owners through the purchase of individual sites and bundles of projects. With a focus on schools, not for profits, and municipalities, Steamboat operates facilities in California, Arizona, and New Jersey. Steamboat was founded in 2018 and is headquartered in New York, New York
Live Oak Bank (“Live Oak”), a subsidiary of Live Oak Bancshares, Inc. (Nasdaq: LOB), is a digitally focused, FDIC-insured bank serving customers across the country. Live Oak puts a groundbreaking spin on service and technology to redefine banking. Our products help customers buy, build and expand their business, and we offer high-yield savings and CD products to grow their hard-earned money. To learn more, visit www.liveoakbank.com
Scout Solar LLC (“Scout Solar”) and SunRenu Solar (“SunRenu”) will both provide engineering, procurement, construction services, and operation and maintenance. Scout Solar has installed and consulted on over 200 commercial systems that represent approximately 70MW. SunRenu has developed 29.6MW, constructed 22.8MW, and serviced 6.7MW.
This article does not constitute and is not intended by Energetic Insurance to constitute financial advice nor a solicitation for any insurance business.
Media Contact: Kathryn Meng Elmes, Energetic Insurance, (617) 655-6492