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Types of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for Renewable Energy

Updated: Jan 12

We recently hosted a webinar discussing all matters of PPAs for renewable energy. Webinar topics included underwriting & modeling pricing into renewable deals, modeling different PPA price offerings and analyzing the Net Asset Value, and analyzing every pricing node including PPA, LMP & retail. Catch the recording below:

What is a PPA?

A PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) for renewable energy is a contract between a renewable energy producer (typically a renewable energy project developer) and a power purchaser (such as an energy retailer or large energy consumer) for the sale and purchase of electricity.

In a PPA, the producer agrees to supply a certain amount of electricity to the purchaser over a certain period, usually ranging from 10 to 30 years. The purchaser agrees to pay a fixed price per unit of electricity over the term of the agreement. This provides revenue certainty for the generator and price stability for the purchaser without the large, upfront capital investment.

How long is a PPA?

A PPA has a period of typically 10 to 30 years. Analyzing LandGate’s PPA database, a trend can be identified: the first PPAs had longer terms of 25 or 30 years; the latest terms are getting shorter to about 10 years. The reason is perhaps that renewable energy producers and capital markets are bullish on the price of electricity and government incentives increasing with time.

How are PPAs used in the renewables sector?

PPAs are commonly used in the renewable energy sector, where the project developer typically produces electricity from sources such as solar or wind farms. PPAs can help renewable energy developers secure financing for their projects by providing a long-term revenue stream, which is particularly important given the variable nature of renewable energy generation. PPAs can also help large energy consumers meet their sustainability goals by sourcing renewable energy to power their operations.

What different types of PPAs are there?

There are several types of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) used in renewable energy projects. Here are some common ones:

  • Fixed-Price PPA: This is a PPA in which the buyer agrees to purchase power from the renewable energy generator at a fixed price for a set period of time. This provides price stability and allows the generator to secure financing for the project.

  • Index-Based PPA: This is a PPA in which the price paid for power is based on a predetermined index, such as the market price for electricity. This allows for some price flexibility, but can also introduce some price risk.

  • Virtual PPA: This is a PPA in which the buyer agrees to purchase a certain amount of power from a renewable energy generator, but the power is not physically delivered to the buyer. Instead, the buyer receives financial credits or offsets for the amount of renewable energy generated, which can be used to meet sustainability or carbon reduction goals.

  • Green Tariff PPA: This is a PPA in which the utility agrees to purchase power from a renewable energy generator on behalf of a specific customer, who pays a premium for the renewable energy. This allows customers to support renewable energy development without having to directly manage a PPA.

  • Synthetic PPA: This is a PPA in which a third-party financial institution, such as a bank or hedge fund, provides the financing for the renewable energy project and takes on the risk associated with the PPA. The buyer pays a fixed or variable rate to the financial institution, which then pays the renewable energy generator.

Overall, the type of PPA used in a renewable energy project will depend on the specific needs of the buyer and generator, as well as the regulatory environment and market conditions.

How can PPAs be used to finance construction of a renewable energy project?

PPAs provide a way for renewable energy project developers to secure financing for their projects by using the future revenue stream from selling electricity to customers as collateral. This reduces the risk for investors and can make it easier to obtain financing for the project. Additionally, PPAs can provide a stable revenue stream for the developer over the long term, which can help offset the upfront costs of building the project. 

What stage of project development are PPAs typically procured?

PPAs are typically procured during the development stage of a renewable energy project. This is because PPAs are long-term contracts that provide a stable revenue stream for the project, and the terms of the PPA will influence many aspects of the project's design and financing. During the development stage, the project developer will conduct feasibility studies to determine the viability of the project, including the potential energy yield, project costs, and potential revenue streams.

Once the developer has a good understanding of the project's potential, they will typically begin seeking a PPA with a customer, such as a utility company or other off-taker. The negotiations for the PPA will typically occur during the development stage, but the agreement itself may not be finalized until later in the project's lifecycle, such as during the financing or construction stages.

However, having a PPA in place early on can be important for securing financing for the project, as it provides a reliable revenue stream for the project over the long term. Overall, procuring a PPA early in the development stage can help ensure the project is designed and financed in a way that aligns with the terms of the PPA, and can also help reduce the risk for investors and lenders by providing a reliable revenue stream for the project.

How do I know if a PPA is a fair offer?

If an off-taker has offered you a power purchase agreement (PPA), it's important to carefully evaluate the terms of the agreement to determine if it's a fair offer. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • PPA Price: The price offered by the off-taker for the electricity generated by the project is a key factor in evaluating the PPA. You should compare the price offered to current market prices for electricity, as well as to prices offered by other potential off-takers, to determine if the offer is competitive.

  • PPA Contract Length: The length of the PPA can have a big impact on the project's financing and profitability. Longer contract lengths typically provide more stability for the project, but may also come with lower prices. You should evaluate the length of the PPA in relation to the expected lifespan of the project and the projected revenue streams.

  • PPA Payment Terms: The payment terms of the PPA can also impact the project's financing and profitability. You should evaluate the payment schedule and any penalties or incentives for early or late payments to determine if they align with your needs and expectations.

  • PPA Creditworthiness of the Off-Taker: The creditworthiness of the off-taker is also an important consideration, as it can impact the likelihood of them fulfilling the terms of the PPA. You should evaluate the off-taker's financial stability and credit rating, and consider seeking additional financial guarantees or collateral to mitigate the risk of default.

  • PPA Other Terms and Conditions: There may be other terms and conditions in the PPA that could impact the project's financing or operation, such as limitations on energy output or restrictions on the sale or transfer of the project. You should carefully review all terms and conditions of the agreement to ensure they align with your goals and expectations for the project.

Overall, evaluating a PPA offer requires a careful analysis of the terms and conditions, as well as consideration of the project's financing and operational needs. You may want to consult with a legal or financial advisor to help you evaluate the offer and negotiate the best terms for your project.

When determining the fair market price of a PPA, is there something I can use to compare?

When evaluating the fair market price of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) tied to a renewable energy project, it is important to compare it to other energy prices that are relevant to the specific market and region where the project is located. Here are some examples of energy prices that may be relevant to consider:

  • Wholesale Electricity Prices: This refers to the price at which electricity is bought and sold on the open market. Wholesale electricity prices vary depending on factors such as supply and demand, fuel prices, weather patterns, and regulatory policies.

  • Retail Electricity Prices: This refers to the price that customers pay for electricity from their utility. Retail electricity prices are generally higher than wholesale prices due to the additional costs associated with distribution and transmission.

  • Natural Gas Prices: Natural gas is a common fuel source for electricity generation, and its price can influence the price of electricity. In some regions, the price of natural gas may be a key factor in determining the competitiveness of renewable energy sources.

  • Renewable Energy Credit (REC) prices: RECs represent the environmental attributes of renewable energy generation and can be sold separately from the electricity itself. The price of RECs can vary depending on market conditions and regulatory policies.

  • Carbon Prices (CO2 prices): Some jurisdictions have implemented carbon pricing mechanisms to incentivize the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon prices can affect the competitiveness of different types of energy sources, including renewables.

  • Other Regional Energy Prices: Depending on the region, there may be other energy prices that are relevant to consider, such as the price of coal, oil, or other fuels used for electricity generation.

It's important to note that the specific energy prices that are most relevant to consider will depend on the location of the renewable energy project and the regulatory and market conditions in that region.

Using LandGate’s PPA Analyzer and Solar PowerVal, users can easily model different pricing structures and the economic impacts related to their projects. Solar PowerVal comes pre-loaded with historical and forecasted price decks in all Wholesale Energy Markets (Hub/LMP on Day ahead and real time), Avoided Energy Cost Price decks used by regulated energy service providers, and retail energy prices (Industrial, Commercial, Residential rates). 

Who are the largest buyers of corporate PPAs?

The largest buyers of corporate PPAs, or power purchase agreements, are typically large corporations and institutions with significant energy consumption needs. Here are some of the top industries and companies that have been actively involved in purchasing corporate PPAs in recent years:

  • Technology Companies: Tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple have been some of the biggest buyers of corporate PPAs in recent years, as they seek to power their data centers and other facilities with renewable energy.

  • Retail Companies: Retailers such as Walmart, Target, and IKEA have also been active buyers of corporate PPAs, as they seek to reduce their environmental impact and meet sustainability goals.

  • Manufacturers: Large manufacturers such as General Motors, Anheuser-Busch, and Mars have also been active in purchasing corporate PPAs to power their factories and other operations with renewable energy.

  • Financial Institutions: Banks and other financial institutions, such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, have also been involved in purchasing corporate PPAs as a way to offset their carbon footprint and meet sustainability goals.

  • Municipalities and Universities: Municipalities and universities have also been active buyers of corporate PPAs, as they seek to power their facilities with renewable energy and reduce energy costs.

Overall, the trend toward purchasing corporate PPAs has been driven by a growing awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy, as well as a desire by companies and institutions to meet sustainability goals and reduce their carbon footprint.

How do I get a PPA in a Regulated Energy Market? 

Getting a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in a regulated energy market can be a complex process. Here are some general steps you can take to obtain a PPA:

  • Identify Potential Off-Takers: In a regulated energy market, utilities or other regulated entities may be required to purchase a certain amount of renewable energy. Identifying potential off-takers that are obligated to purchase renewable energy can be a good starting point for securing a PPA.

  • Determine the Regulatory Requirements: Different regulated markets have different regulatory requirements that must be met in order to secure a PPA. These requirements may include obtaining approval from regulatory bodies, such as the Public Utility Commission (PUC) or the Independent System Operator (ISO), and complying with specific market rules and regulations.

  • Develop a Project Proposal: Once you have identified potential off-takers and determined the regulatory requirements, you will need to develop a detailed project proposal. This should include information on the size and location of the project, the expected energy output, the technology being used, and any other relevant details.

  • Negotiate the PPA: Once you have a project proposal, you can begin negotiating the terms of the PPA with potential off-takers. This will typically involve discussing the price of the energy, the length of the contract, and any other terms and conditions.

  • Obtain Regulatory Approval: Once the terms of the PPA have been agreed upon, you will need to obtain regulatory approval. This may involve submitting the PPA to the appropriate regulatory body for review and approval.

  • Execute the PPA: Once regulatory approval has been obtained, you can execute the PPA with the off-taker. This will typically involve signing a contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the agreement.

It is important to note that the specific process for obtaining a PPA in a regulated energy market can vary depending on the region and the specific regulatory requirements. Working with experienced legal and regulatory experts can help ensure that you are following the appropriate procedures and complying with all necessary regulations. Want to learn more about how to leverage the PPA tools available from LandGate?


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