19 Sep 2023

Loan for solar power company to expand New Zealand services

7:41 pm on 19 September 2023
Solar panel

Photo: 123rf

The state-owned Green Investment Fund and two international investors are making a $170 million loan to a New Zealand solar power provider.

The Green Investment Fund (NZGIF) has put $80m into its solar funding programme, while global investors First Sentier and Natixis have added $90m for long-term lending to SolarZero.

NZGIF chief investment officer Jason Patrick said the solar finance programme was a "milestone" and its first private debt placement with co-investors.

The long-term loan will replace SolarZero's short-term debt, freeing up money to expand its services.

"Replacing short-term floating-rate debt with longer term fixed-rate options will allow New Zealand solar providers to accelerate solar energy access to New Zealanders," Patrick said.

"We expect other New Zealand-based solar providers to be able to access the NZGIF solar finance programme soon."

SolarZero chief executive Matt Ward said getting long-term finance was a key issue.

"It's especially meaningful as it provides greater financing certainty and improved operational cash flow," Ward said.

This is the first New Zealand finance deal to be given Climate Bonds Initiative certification, meaning it meets international standards for green lending.

Enthusiastic global investors

Patrick said the international investors and the loan arranger, France-based financial company Société Générale, had been enthusiastic about investing in New Zealand projects.

NZGIF expected further funds in the future in other parts of the renewable energy sector, and that international investors would participate in funding.

First Sentier Investors senior portfolio manager of global credit Craig Morabito said the SolarZero deal structure was innovative. It supported the nationwide approach to solar power development.

Natixis Investment Managers represented a range of managed funds and a Hong Kong-based insurance company, and its regional head, Angus Davidson, said investing in renewable projects and storage was compelling.

SolarZero is owned by the world's largest asset manager, BlackRock.

Last month, BlackRock with support from the Government announced a $2 billion investment fund for New Zealand renewable energy projects.

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