Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)
What is a solar power purchase agreement?
A solar power purchase agreement (PPA) is a financial agreement where a developer arranges for the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar energy system on a customer’s property at little to no cost. The developer sells the power generated to the host customer at a fixed rate that is typically lower than the local utility’s retail rate. This lower electricity price serves to offset the customer’s purchase of electricity from the grid while the developer receives the income from these sales of electricity as well as any tax credits and other incentives generated from the system. PPAs typically range from 10 to 25 years and the developer remains responsible for the operation and maintenance of the system for the duration of the agreement. At the end of the PPA contract term, a customer may be able to extend the PPA, have the developer remove the system or choose to buy the solar energy system from the developer.
Benefits of PPAs to Solar Customers
No or low upfront capital costs
The developer handles the upfront costs of sizing, procuring and installing the solar PV system. Without any upfront investment, the host customer is able to adopt solar and begin saving money as soon as the system becomes operational.
Reduced energy costs
Solar PPAs provide a fixed, predictable cost of electricity for the duration of the agreement and are structured in one of two ways. Under the fixed escalator plan, the price the customer pays rises at a predetermined rate, typically between 2% - 5%. This is often lower than projected utility price increases. The fixed price plan, on the other hand, maintains a constant price throughout the term of the PPA saving the customer more as utility prices rise over time.
The developer is responsible for system performance and operating risk.
Better leverage of available tax credits
Developers are typically better positioned to utilize available tax credits to reduce system costs. For example, municipal hosts and other public entities with no taxable income would not otherwise be able to take advantage of the Section 48 Investment Tax Credit.
Potential increase in property value
A solar PV system has been shown to increase residential property values. i The long term nature of these agreements allows PPAs to be transferred with the property and thus provides customers a means to invest in their home at little or no cost.