订阅

多平台阅读

微信订阅

杂志

申请纸刊赠阅

订阅每日电邮

移动应用

商业 - 能源

新模式让太阳能走进美国家庭

Brian Dumaine 2011年11月18日

眼下,谷歌以及花旗等公司通过为太阳能屋顶发电项目提供资金获得了不错的回报。但是,美国政府对绿色能源的补贴政策存在变数,这种模式还能持续吗?

SolarCity的安装人员在德克萨斯的一座房子屋顶铺设太阳能电池板

    布鲁斯•布勒琢磨着在自己位于美国加州钻石吧的牧场房子的屋顶上安装太阳能面板,但其价格吓了他一跳。 “我们想装太阳能面板好些年了,”布勒说道。“但我们发现其费用令人望而却步,需要约35,000美元。”后来他找到了了SunRun,该公司应用一种新型融资模式,使得人们能负担得起住宅太阳能面板的安装费用。除SunRun外,还有一些太阳能面板安装公司,包括SolarCity和Sungevity,也采用了这种模式。这些公司吸引了从谷歌(Google)到美国合众银行(U.S. Bancorp)的众多投资者。其运作方式如下:

    SunRun筹措项目资金去购买、安装和维护客户的屋顶太阳能系统。这家私营企业已募集到总计7.5亿美元资金,其中最大的投资者是美国合众银行(U.S. Bancorp)。以布勒为例,新的太阳能面板(完全由SunRun付费)能让其每月的电费从200美元直降到60美元,降低了70%。布勒每月能从节省的140美元中留下50美元,剩下的支付给SunRun,后者将用其补贴太阳能系统购置费用和雇人安装及维护系统的开支。对布勒这样的购买者而言,吸引人的地方在于他们不必一开始就支付35,000美元,也无需担心后期的系统维护。(如果客户愿意,SunRun也允许他们支付一定的初装费用或全资购买全部设备,这样,用户以后每月偿付的费用也会相应减少。)如果布勒搬家,SunRun的合同会转移给下一个新户主。SunRun首席执行官爱德华•芬斯特称:“我们的做法证明,我们可以能提供人们用得起的太阳能系统。”

    目前,这种太阳能租赁模式在美国发展迅猛。SunRun认为这种模式可以实现盈利。今年,SunRun将部署近10,000套太阳能系统,超出2010年数量的一倍之多。位于加州圣马特奥市的SolarCity 是SunRun的竞争对手,它在商业建筑和住宅领域都有涉足,目前已部署了17,000套太阳能系统。与SunRun不同的是,SolarCity拥有自己的施工团队。SolarCity发展极为迅速,已从花旗银行(Citibank)、谷歌等公司成功募集到14亿美元资金,其中仅谷歌一家就投入了高达2.8亿美元的资金。这些投资者的平均税后收益率高达8%-10%。

    这种模式是不是就是资产证券化的最新形势,即有按揭担保的有价证券?有朝一日它会变成泡沫?也许会如此。不过SolarCity首席执行官林登•莱福强调,项目是安全的,因为美国人通常不会拒绝支付水电账单。莱福称:“我们太阳能项目的违约率远远低于1%。”

    尽管如此,其它阻碍却依然存在。虽然太阳能面板的价格在下跌,但相比于化石能源,前者的价格仍显昂贵,除非有政府补助,否则难以产生经济效益。谷歌和美国合众银行之所以投身其中,是因为美国政府对太阳能投资提供了30%的税收抵免额。如果政府决意抽身而退,整个行业将难以为继。现行的补贴方案将于2016年到期,鉴于美国国会目前在绿色能源领域的态度,补贴方案的延续绝不是板上钉钉的事。(看看最近太阳能公司Solyndra破产一事就知道了。)如果目前处于历史低点的利率开始攀升,那么融资成本上涨将使得回报下降。

    不过现在,像布勒这样的客户无需支付预付款,即可享受清洁的太阳能。

    译者:项航

    When Bruce Buller looked into installing solar panels on the roof of his ranch house in Diamond Bar, Calif., he suffered severe sticker shock. "We had been thinking about solar for years," says Buller, "but we found the cost -- about $35,000 -- to be prohibitive." He then discovered SunRun, one of a number of solar installers, including SolarCity and Sungevity, that are applying a new financing model that makes residential solar affordable. They are attracting investors from U.S. Bancorp to Google. Here's how it works.

    SunRun raises project capital to buy, install, and maintain its customers' rooftop solar systems. The private company, whose biggest investor is U.S. Bancorp (USB), has attracted a total of $750 million. In Buller's case, his new solar panels (which SunRun paid for entirely) cut his $200-a-month electricity bill by $140, or 70%. Buller gets to keep $50 of the savings and pays the balance to SunRun, which uses it to cover the cost of buying the solar system and hiring a contractor to install and maintain it. The appeal to customers like Buller is that they don't need to spend $35,000 upfront or hassle with maintaining the system. (SunRun also lets customers put some money down or buy the whole system, if they choose, to lower their monthly solar payments.) If Buller moves, SunRun's contract can be transferred to a new homeowner. Says Edward Fenster, the CEO of SunRun: "We have proved we can make solar affordable."

    This solar-leasing model is taking off. SunRun, which says it is profitable, will fund close to 10,000 solar systems this year, double the number in 2010. One of its competitors, SolarCity of San Mateo, Calif., which does both commercial and residential buildings and, unlike SunRun, has its own installation teams, has built 17,000 home systems. The fast-growing company has raised $1.4 billion in project financing from, among others, Citibank (C) and Google (GOOG), which alone put in $280 million. Typically, these investors earn 8% to 10% after tax.

    Is this simply the latest flavor of securitization à la mortgage-backed securities, which one day could turn into a bubble? Perhaps, but SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive insists these projects are safe because Americans almost always pay their utility bills. "The default rate on our solar projects is way under 1%," he says.

    Other obstacles loom. The price of solar panels is dropping, but they are still more expensive than fossil fuels and don't make economic sense without federal subsidies. Investors like Google and U.S. Bancorp are attracted to these deals because they can take advantage of the 30% federal tax credit program for solar. Take that away, and the industry could suffer. The bill is slated to expire in 2016 and, given the current mood in Congress over green subsidies (think Solyndra), renewal is by no means assured. Also, if interest rates -- now at historic lows -- rise, the higher cost of capital would crimp returns.

    In the meantime, customers like Buller are enjoying clean solar power with no money down.

我来点评

  最新文章

最新文章:

500强情报中心

财富专栏