In Brief:

  • Nelnet Director of Tax Equity Capital Markets Jon Miller explores challenges of bonds and advantages of solar tax equity investments today.
  • The current market value decline in bond investments has had a negative impact on entity capital and other financial problems – and external factors can make liquidity planning a challenge with bond investing.
  • Solar tax equity investments aren’t exposed to the same market-related adjustments that create risk for bonds. They also provide a predictable stream of cash flows with strong after-tax yields that typically offer significant returns for investors – all while aligning with investors’ ESG goals.

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In today’s challenging economic environment, banks and other corporates are facing significant disruptions from market volatility; and with interest rates on the rise, existing bond portfolios are experiencing material markdowns. As a result, many investors are seeking alternative investment options, such as solar tax equity investments (ITC investments).

The Challenge With Bonds

The recent rapid rise in interest rates has resulted in many bond portfolios experiencing significant markdowns of their carrying value. This market value decline in bond investments has created multiple problems, including a detrimental impact on entity capital, requiring capital calls, recapitalizations, and a myriad of other financial burdens.

The bond market has from time to time experienced illiquidity or valuation declines from macro-economic disruptions. Other times, bonds have experienced early redemptions by the issuer and other impacts outside the control of the investor. These factors can create challenges from a liquidity planning perspective.

Thus, bonds, which generally achieve lower annual yields relative to most investments, carry their unique risks, which are being exacerbated in today’s challenging environment.

The Advantage of Solar Tax Equity Investments

Investing in ITC investments is becoming an increasingly attractive option for investors, especially in the current economic climate. One of the most significant advantages of ITC investments is that they do not carry mark-to-market risk, meaning that investors are not exposed to the same market-related adjustments that can create financial burdens and other challenges associated with bond investments.

ITC investments offer a predictable stream of cash flows with strong after-tax yields that typically provide significant returns for investors. Additionally, ITC investments offer the added benefit of regularly returning nearly all invested capital within one to two years, further enhancing their appeal as a stable and high-yield investment option.

Another key advantage of ITC investments is that they are backed by the energy produced and sold through the underlying solar project, which can be sold to multiple off-takers throughout its life cycle. This improves the credit quality of the investment.

Additionally, ITC investments can offer diversification benefits due to their generally limited correlation to interest rates. Bonds are typically influenced by changes in interest rates, which can impact their prices and yields. In contrast, the return profile of a solar tax equity investment is comprised primarily of tax credits and other tax benefits, which are typically not tied in any material way to changing interest rates. This limited correlation to interest rates can provide diversification to an investment portfolio, reducing the overall risk exposure and potentially enhancing portfolio performance.

Furthermore, ITC investments offer a normalized impact to earnings through the recently passed FASB Topic 323. This update allows for the proportional amortization method of accounting for tax credit structures, providing investors with greater clarity and predictability around the impact of ITC investments on their earnings. This makes it easier for investors to plan and manage their investments over the long term.

In addition to the financial and diversification advantages mentioned above, ITC investments also offer compelling environmental, social, and governance (ESG) benefits to investors. With growing concerns about climate change and increasing demand for responsible investing, solar tax equity investments can align with investors’ ESG goals by promoting clean and renewable energy. By investing in solar energy projects, investors can contribute to mitigating climate change and supporting sustainable development, which can enhance their overall ESG profile and meet the increasing demand for socially responsible investments.

The Value of an Experienced Partner

Of course, investing in ITC investments is not without its challenges. The complex nature of these investments means that investors need to work with experienced professionals who can help them navigate the various risks and opportunities associated with ITC investments. ITC investments are an intriguing investment option for banks and other corporates looking for stable, high-yield investments that offer significant tax benefits. With the right approach, investors can leverage the benefits of ITC investments to build a diversified portfolio that delivers strong returns and helps them navigate the challenges of today’s economic environment.

With over $278 million of tax equity under management between us and our co-investment partners to date, Nelnet Renewable Energy is a leading, trusted partner for your sustainability and investment efforts. We currently have tax equity investments into solar projects spanning 19 states and over 252 solar projects powering nearly 118,000 homes each year. Visit our Co-investment Platform page to discover the benefits of co-investing alongside Nelnet Renewable Energy.

Legal Disclaimer:

This article is for informational purposes only, and the writer’s views are his own and do not constitute legal, tax, accounting, investment or other professional advice. You should consult your professional adviser for legal or other professional advice. Nothing herein should be construed as, and may not be used in connection with, an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy or hold, an interest in any security or investment product, and nothing herein is to be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or class of securities. Investments in investment products managed by Nelnet Renewable Energy are available only to qualified, “accredited investors,” as such term is defined in federal securities laws.

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AUTHOR

Jon Miller

CFA Charterholder and CFA ESG Investing Certified

Jon Miller is a CFA Charterholder, CFA ESG Investing Certified, and Director of Tax Equity Capital Markets at Nelnet. He has served as underwriter, advisor, investor, and developer on over $2 billion of solar and wind tax equity projects across the U.S. Jon can be reached at jon.miller@nelnet.net or 303.246.5473.