NEW YORK – SunEdison, a renewable energy company once billed as North America’s largest provider of solar energy, is planning to file for bankruptcy this week in yet another green-energy debacle likely to cost the U.S. taxpayer in excess of $3 billion.
SunEdison’s apparently imminent bankruptcy provides more evidence that with oil currently trading at approximately $40 a barrel – down from a high of $145 a barrel in July 2008 – the solar energy sector in the United States is declining rapidly toward economic collapse. The higher price of generating solar power has become increasingly unsustainable despite government subsidies.
As with the failure of the Spanish solar energy giant Abengoa, the SunEdison bankruptcy could cause election-year embarrassment not only for President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and the Democratic Party, but also to the GOP establishment in Congress and presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz and his wife Heidi, through their ties to Goldman Sachs.
Reuters reported Friday that SunEdison, Inc., nine months after its market value reached $10 billion, has collapsed to a mere $117 million in market value. The company had built an unsustainable $12 billion in debt through its effort to build debt-financed solar and wind energy plants around the world.
CNBC reported Monday that SunEdison was trading at 36 cents per share, having lost 98 percent of its value over the past 12 months.
TerraForm Global and SunEdison’s other “yieldco,” TerraForm Power, hired financial and legal advisers on Friday to develop contingency plans in case SunEdison files for bankruptcy.
A yieldco, or yielding company, is a relatively new Wall Street innovation that has sprung up in the renewable energy sector since 2014, with strong support from Goldman Sachs. A new yielding company is created to separate from the parent a dividend growth-oriented subsidiary company that bundles renewable energy operating assets to generate predictable cash flows to investors, even if the parent company is dissolved in bankruptcy liquidation. The concept is that the parent company developing renewable energy resources faces high risk, including insolvency. But renewable energies, once developed, are expected to produce low-risk cash flows, especially if government subsidies remain in place.
Goldman Sachs was a prime mover in SunEdison’s formation of the TerraForm yieldcos in a $1 billion dollar deal announced Aug. 17, 2015. The Goldman Sachs-managed fund, West Side Infrastructures Partners III, provided $300 million in equity, combined with $700 million in debt provided by a group of banks that included Bank of America Corp. and Deutsche Bank AG.
TerraForm Global, the SunEdison yieldco created to own and operate SunEdison global solar, wind and hydro-electric projects, has until May 31 to re-establish itself with the exchange after being delisted by NASDAQ for failure to file its 2015 IRS Form 10-K in a timely fashion.
Shares of both TerraForm Global and TerraForm Power, the SunEdison yieldco counterpart operating SunEdison renewable energy, ended last week at or near their 52-week low, with both stocks down-trending. TerraForm Global underperformed the S&P500 by 79.58 percent from Aug. 26, 2015, through April 4.
Close ties to Clintons
Indian-born Jigar Hasmukh Shah, the founder of SunEdison, has extensive ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as to the Clinton Foundation through Shah’s championing of renewable energies. Shah’s ventures include solar and wind technologies, through his involvement as a current board member and former CEO of the Carbon War Room, a global organization dedicated to reducing the use of carbon-based fuels worldwide.
On May 29, 2015, the Clinton Climate Initiative, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, announced an official partnership with the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Carbon War Room to promote “a transition to renewable energy and energy-efficient solutions in the Caribbean region.”
“The world has a moral imperative to save island nations from disappearing or suffering irreversible damage, and an economic imperative to reduce their reliance on costly imported fossil fuels and build climate resilience to avoid catastrophic disasters,” former President Clinton said, making the announcement.
“Working in partnership with Rocky Mountain Institute and the Carbon War Room, the Clinton Climate Initiative is bringing governments, businesses, and financial backers together to help design, implement, and scale up clean energy projects across the Caribbean and around the world,” Clinton continued.
In September, Hillary Clinton announced an energy policy for her 2016 presidential campaign that called for a seven-fold increase in solar power in the United States by 2020.
Last July, the Washington Free Beacon / reported Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential energy policy resulted from consultation with the left-wing Center for American Progress and John Podesta, the center’s founder and a long-time Clinton adviser who is currently chairing Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The Free Beacon further reported that Suntech, a major manufacturer of Chinese solar technology, had bankrolled the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, CASE.
CASE is of the key groups that lobbied against Obama administration efforts to tax the relatively inexpensive imported Chinese government-subsidized solar panels, to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers, while Hilary Clinton was secretary of state.
CASE President Jigar Shah, in a statement June 2015, objected to the Obama administration’s refusal to lower tariffs on Chinese panels.
“Keeping these stiff tariffs in place makes solar power less affordable, slows job growth and prevents more American homes, businesses and utilities from switching to clean solar energy,” he argued
The Free Beacon further reported CASE was a lobbying client of the Podesta Group through July 2015, tasked to “U.S. trade relations with China.”
Shah’s SunEdison, is listed on the CASE website as a member of the lobbying organization.
GOP conflicted over energy tax breaks
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, appeared ready to include in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, H.R. 636, being debated in the Senate this week a bevy of green energy subsidies known as “tax extenders” that Democrats have been pushing for renewable energy projects, including wind and solar power.
Only after intense pushback from conservative groups did Thune back down.
“It’s going to be hard to probably get on the bill, a motion to proceed, or to get off the bill, unless we in some fashion address the Democrats’ concern,” Thune told reporters April 11. “It’s going to take 60 votes to get this done.”
The Hill reported Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners had announced that if the Senate ends up attaching energy tax provisions to the FAA bill, the organizations will ratchet up pressure on lawmakers across the Capitol to oppose the language or pass a clean-extension of the measure.
On April 19, Thune’s Senate office in Washington confirmed to WND at 1 p.m. that H.R. 636 had passed the Senate within the hour, without the energy tax extenders Democrats had fought to include in the bill.
While it’s a temporary victory for conservatives opposing renewable energy tax subsidies, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed to WND in an email after the Senate vote on H.R. 636 was final that the Democrats might attempt in the future to re-insert the green energy tax subsidies in yet another tax vehicle bill.
Goldman Sachs and Ted Cruz
As WND reported last week, Goldman Sachs announced in November 2015 plans to invest $150 billion in renewable energy projects, including solar and wind farms, and energy efficiency upgrades for buildings and power grid infrastructure.
Today, Goldman Sachs’ enthusiasm for investing in renewable fuels mirrors Ted Cruz’s position on alternative energies. Cruz argues renewable fuels have a place in an “all of the above” energy economy, with the presumption they will succeed with consumers even if government price and policy intervention in the energy marketplace are phased out.
During the Iowa primary campaign, Cruz supported the Renewable Fuel Standard, RFS, through 2022, arguing for the retention for six more years of requirements set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum proportion of renewable fuels, including cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuel.
“My view on energy is simple: We should pursue an ‘all of the above’ policy,” Cruz wrote in the Des Moines Register on Jan. 6. “We should embrace all of the energy resources with which God has blessed America: oil and gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, and biofuels and ethanol. But Washington shouldn’t be picking winners and losers.”
He asserted his tax plan would phase out all subsidies and mandates, including renewable fuel standards and the RFS requirements, arguing that antitrust laws would ensure that the oil and gas industry would not be able to block market access for ethanol producers.
Cruz’s argument depended on a presumption that U.S. consumers, allowed full market access, would find “quite popular” mid-level ethanol products like E25 or E30. Should that proposition prove false, Cruz proposed no alternative to rescue renewable fuels from losing in the open competition of a fuel market absent government intervention.