Wednesday, April 19, 2017

IBank Issues Record California Green Muni Bond

$450 Million for Water Projects

The California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank) recently issued the largest green municipal bond ever offered in California.  The $450 million bond will assist the State Water Resources Control Board in providing low-cost financing for critical water projects throughout California through its Clean Water State Revolving Fund.  The previous record issuance was a similar bond issued by the IBank in 2016 for $410 million.

With this recent issuance, the total California has topped $2.5 billion in green muni bond issuances since they were first offered in 2014 (see chart below).

According to the IBank staff report for the recent bond,

"The purpose of this financing is to enable communities to comply with the State’s regulations and mandates under the Porter-Cologne Act and the federal Clean Water Act, which aims at improving water quality, protecting the environment and public health and making the best use of limited water supplies. The 2017 Bonds will be marketed and sold as Green Bonds to provide the opportunity to investors to invest directly in bonds that support environmentally beneficial projects."
"The State Water Board will issue the 2017 Bonds as “Green Bonds” since the projects’ meet the standards of the Federal and State Clean Water Acts." 

The IBank issue will likely help California reach a record volume of green muni bonds in 2017, breaking the 2016 record of over $1.3 billion in muni bond issuances.  New green bonds are in the works from a variety of state and local agencies for transit, water, green building and other projects.

California Green Muni Bond Issuances
IssuerDate*AmountGeneral Purposes
State of California10/7/2014$300,000,000Mass Transit, Clean Water, Energy Efficiency
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission5/20/2015$32,025,000Renewable Energy
City of Los Angeles6/4/2015$188,755,000Wastewater, Digester, Water Purification
East Bay Municipal Utility District6/17/2015$74,335,000Clean Drinking Water, Conservation, Flood Protection, Renewable Energy, Biodiversity
City of Los Angeles6/30/2015$100,835,000Wastewater, Water Purification, Digester
San Diego Unified School District1/5/2016$100,000,000Energy Efficient Buildings, Renewable Energy
IBank4/28/2016$410,735,000Clean Water, Water Pollution Control
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission5/24/2016$240,000,000Clean water, wastewater
San Diego County Water Authority6/23/2016$98,945,000Water Efficiency
Midpeninsula Open Space District9/22/2016$57,410,000Open Space Acquisition, related
Port of Los Angeles10/13/2016$35,205,000Open space, habitat, green building
City of Napa10/20/2016$12,500,000Recycling and materials recovery facility
Los Angeles County Sanitation District11/16/2016$170,265,000Reclaimed water projects, sewage system Improvements
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission12/14/2016$259,350,000Clean water projects (Climate Bond Certified)
IBank3/23/2017$450,000,000Clean Water, Water Pollution Control
2015 Subtotal$395,950,000
2016 Subtotal$1,384,410,000
2017 Subtotal to March$450,000,000
* Dated per MSRB
Total All Issuances$2,530,360,000(prepared/updated by Michael Paparian 4/19/2017)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

California Funds Clean Energy Innovators

California clean energy and other clean-tech entrepreneurs benefit from a state that supports and promotes innovative new businesses.  California is the world leader for clean-tech and the state works hard to maintain this position.

The latest program to support early-stage clean energy entrepreneurs launched recently.

The California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development (CalSEED) initiative will provide $24 million in grants over five years to support innovators working on very early stage clean energy concepts. Awardees can receive up to $150,000 for proof of concept activities. The awardees will also have an opportunity to pitch at a business plan competition for an additional $450,000 in follow-on funding to continue demonstrating the potential merits of their technology.

Clean Tech Leadership Rankings 2010-2016
Source:  CleanEdge U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index

Funding for CalSEED comes from the California Energy Commission.   The first round of award applications is currently being evaluated.  The program will continue with additional funding rounds in coming years.

“This initiative will help entrepreneurs move their projects from an idea to the marketplace,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert Weisenmiller, “thereby helping to advance California’s transition to a clean energy future.”

CalSEED applicants can include individuals, businesses, non-profits and academic institutions
Source: CalSEED

The CalSEED program is managed by the California Clean Energy Fund, a private equity and venture capital firm specializing in early stage and startup companies.

“This level of funding is not typically available for pre-prototype or pre-revenue ideas,” said Deepa Lounsbury, CalSEED program manager. “By filling this critical gap and providing access to unprecedented professional development resources, we believe the program will help catalyze a new era of clean energy technologies.”

Joshua Croft of the Energy Commission staff gave an overview of the program when the Energy Commission approved the overall funding in 2016:  "The CalSEED Initiative will help develop California's next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs providing SEED funding as well as mentoring, technical consulting and business development services to support energy entrepreneurs and research teams in their quest to develop breakthrough solutions."

Croft described four goals of CalSEED:
  • First, to establish the technical merits and commercial potential of promising early stage energy  technology concepts that provide the greatest benefits to electric ratepayers in the IOU (Investor Owned Utility) service territories. 
  • Second, attract private sector interest and capital to clean energy innovations supported through the CalSEED Initiative. 
  • Third, encourage broad and diverse participation in the CalSEED Initiative from entrepreneurs and researchers throughout California. 
  • Fourth, ensure a fair, simplified, streamlined, and transparent process for identifying entrepreneurs and researchers through SEED support from the CalSEED Initiative.

The CalSEED application process is described in detail on their website

According to CalSEED, the program brings together entrepreneurial training organizations, nonprofits, companies, universities and an ecosystem of clean energy incubators who will provide technical expertise, mentoring, networking and business development support to applicants receiving funding.  New energy technologies require millions of dollars to reach commercialization. CalSEED will position entrepreneurs to demonstrate the potential merits of their technology and CalSEED’s network of professional development resources will prepare the entrepreneurs identify and take the correct steps to attract future private investment.

CalSEED builds on other early stage funding programs California has supported.  "(CalSEED) is going to help create the next generation of success stories," said Energy Commissioner David Hochschild.  "They're not all going to be success stories and .. as a state we have to  be comfortable with some level of risk. I think we are all comfortable with that, because at the end of the day you don't make gains without taking some bold bets. And I  think we've shown that this is paying off.  I mean, just looking at how many of the clean energy success stories are in the State have their roots in early funding from the Energy Commission."

CalSEED is managed by the California Clean Energy Fund and includes
many partners.  Source:  CalSEED

In addition to being managed by CalCEF, CalSEED works in partnership with a variety of entities, including Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Greenlining Institute, GrantFarm and the others shown in the above graphic.

CalSEED funding comes from the Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program, which invests about $120 million annually for innovative clean energy technologies and approaches and that benefit the ratepayers of California’s three largest electric investor-owned utilities.

The application package for CalSEED funding can be found here.

Friday, January 6, 2017

California Green Muni Bonds Top $1.3 Billion in 2016

Record Year; 3 Year Total Over $2 Billion

California government agencies are showing increasing leadership in the green financing marketplace.

In 2016, California agencies issued over $1.38 billion in labelled green bonds, or nearly a $1 billion over the 2015 total.

In the three years since the State Treasurer's Office issued the first California green bond, there have been over $2 billion in government issued green bonds in the state.

Green bonds are used to finance projects with environmentally positive attributes.  Some of the projects, such as renewable energy or energy efficiency projects, may contribute positively to climate solutions.  Others may assist with climate adaptation.  Green bonds are often used to finance projects that provide the infrastructure that will be needed in a world responding to climate change, including mass transit and clean water.

Many investors are looking for assistance in evaluating the attributes of a green bond, such as the worthiness of the underlying projects, transparency, disclosure and other factors.  The two major certification schemes for green bonds are the Green Bond Principles and Climate Bond Standards.  In addition, ratings agencies S&P and Moodys and others have developed evaluation tools.

The Climate Bond Standards validate the environmental integrity of the bond, assuring that the projects funded have positive environmental benefits and are consistent with current practices.  The Standards are sector-specific and are developed with input from experts and stakeholders.  The Climate Bonds Standards process is overseen by an Advisory Board that includes the California State Treasurer (John Chiang) and a representative of  CalSTRS - the California State Teachers Retirement System (Cathy DiSalvo).

The Green Bond Principles are more focused on the attributes of the bond, including transparency, reporting and disclosure.  The principles are intended to assist financial markets and investors in assuring the integrity of green bonds and green bond transactions.  The Principles are overseen by the International Capital Markets Association, with advice from a range of stakeholders including CalSTRS.

The Climate Bonds Standards and Green Bond Principles are complementary and it is possible to be certified to both.

The Standards are seen as providing more robust environmental requirements.  A recent bond issued by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission for water projects was the first to use the new Climate Bond Standard for Water.

The trends in California are consistent with growth in the green bond market internationally.  According to the Climate Bonds Initiative, over $81 billion in green bonds were issued worldwide in 2016, about double the amount issued in 2015.

Preliminary 2016 data showed $81 billion in Green Bond issuances.

The largest government agency green bond issuers in California in 2017 were the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission ($500 million for clean water projects), California Infrastructure Bank ($410 million for clean water),  Los Angeles County Sanitation District ($170 million for reclaimed water and sewage system improvements), and the San Diego Unified School District ($100 million for green building projects.

Below is the latest CalGreenFinance summary of California government agency issued green bonds:

Government agencies weren't the only entities issuing green bonds 2016.  Among private companies, Apple Computer issued a $1.5 billion green bond for green building and other environmental related projects.  

California based Renovate America has issued nine green bonds totalling nearly $2 billion for financing related to energy retrofits. Their most recent issuance in September totalled $264 million to assist with over 9,000 home retrofits in 36 California counties and attracted investors from around the world.  "We are grateful to all of our existing and new investors across the globe who are making it possible for Americans to finance home improvements that enhance local infrastructure, create jobs and that conserve water, save energy, and reduce our carbon footprint," said Renovate America Head of Investor Relations Nicole Montecalvo.

California Treasurer John Chiang is expected to be increasingly involved in green bond markets in 2017 following intensive work by his office in analyzing the marketplace (see CalGreenFinance story from January 2016:  Green Bonds: California Treasurer Chiang Explores Expanded Role).

2017 is expected to be another record year for green bonds worldwide.  California state and local agencies as well as California-based companies will continue to be significant participants in this marketplace.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

CalSTRS Highlights Green Investments

Green Bonds Featured

The California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) has been an international leader in green investments and pushing for corporate accountability on environmental and climate issues.

CalSTRS recently released their tenth annual Green Initiative Task Force Report,  highlighting these activities.  The report discusses the growth of green bond investments.

Green Initiative Task Force Report 2016

According to CalSTRS, the growth in green bonds aligns with the commitment CalSTRS Chief Executive Officer Jack Ehnes made during the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit. At that time, Mr. Ehnes announced CalSTRS would more than double its clean energy and technology investments from $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion over the next five years. Green bonds have played a significant part.  Mr. Ehnes also participated in the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris last year, speaking about the importance of green investing.

CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes at COP21 in Paris, December, 2015

“We like green bonds because they offer competitive investment-grade and high-yield returns that fit in well with our Fixed Income Portfolio,” said CalSTRS Investment Officer Cathy DiSalvo, who manages the green bonds program. “Organizations issue green bonds because they have projects to fund that have both environmental and economic benefits.” DiSalvo represents CalSTRS on the Climate Bonds Standards Advisory Board, an entity developing standards and certification protocols for green bond issuances worldwide.

“This past August, CalSTRS purchased $5 million in green bonds from the Asian Development Bank, making us one of about 70 investors in the bank’s $1.3 billion issuance,” Ms. DiSalvo said.

CalSTRS Green Bond Holdings
Source:  Green Initiative Task Force Report 2016

In addition to the Asian Development Bank bonds, CalSTRS green bond investments have benefitted projects throughout the world, including adaptation projects in Africa, municipal projects in Sweden, renewable energy in Korea and green buildings in the United States.

According to CalSTRS, projects funded with green bonds in 2016 included:
  • Renewable energy—from Export-Import Bank of Korea, Georgia Power, Westar Energy, the European Investment Bank, and Morgan Stanley.
  • Climate change mitigation and adaption—from the African Development Bank, Export Development Canada, Kommuninvest (Sweden), and Nederlandse Waterschapsbank (The Netherlands).
  • Public transportation and waste management—from European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and ING Bank.
  • Hybrid/electric vehicles—Toyota Motor Corp.
One sector that has not benefitted from U.S. public employee pension funds such as CalSTRS is local government projects in the United States. This is because U.S. municipal bonds usually have very low returns because the income on them is tax-free.  Since CalSTRS can't take advantage of this favorable tax treatment, the bonds are much less attractive than corporate bonds or bonds from other countries.  State Treasurer John Chiang is expected to discuss this issue in an upcoming report on green bonds (CalGreenFinance post here).  California government agencies have issued over $1 billion in green bonds in 2016, more than double the amount issued in 2015 (CalGreenFinance post with listing of California municipal green bond issuances here).

CalSTRS cites several benefits of green bonds, including price stability due to the fact that the bonds are traded less frequently than standard bonds because they are purchased mostly by buy and hold investors. They also offer increased reporting to track the progress of projects the bonds finance.

In addition to green bond, stock and real estate holdings,  CalSTRS is investing in clean technology opportunities as part of their venture capital and other funding.  The chart below summarizes nearly $700 million in holdings:

CalSTRS Clean Technology/Clean Energy Investments
Source:  Green Initiative Task Force Report 2016
Even as CalSTRS shows global leadership on climate and environmental investment, some CalSTRS members would like them to be more aggressive in their divestments from fossil fuel related companies.  CalSTRS has already moved to divest from coal companies (see Reuters story here), but groups such as Fossil Free California are pushing them to remove oil holdings from their portfolio.

"Members of the CalSTRS board are increasingly tuned in to the dangers of climate change," says Sandy Emerson of Fossil Free California.  "They are beginning to adjust their financial decisions to focus on more sustainable holdings. We at Fossil Free California applaud their efforts. But so far the shift in investment policy is not large enough or fast enough to counter the urgent dangers of the climate crisis. CalSTRS must do more, for the sake of the environment — and for the sake of teachers’ pensions."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

California Green Muni Bond Issuances Top $1 Billion in 2016

More Than Double 2015

California government agencies have issued over $1.1 billion in green bonds in 2016, more than double the amount issued in 2015.  This is part of a worldwide trend of rapidly accelerating use of green finance tools.

The most recent issuance from the Los Angeles County Sanitation District put California over the $1 billion mark for the first time.  The Sanitation District $170 million bond assists with recycled water and related projects.

California Green Muni Bond issuances since the State of California
Issued the first one in 2016

The Climate Bonds Initiative tracks green bonds worldwide and reports that, as of this writing, there have been over $60 billion in green bonds issued globally in 2016, including bonds for both public agencies and private entities.

Green bonds are used for infrastructure projects that contribute to environmental and climate goals.  These can range from green building to renewable energy to clean water and more.

California government agencies aren't alone in issuing green bonds.  California based Apple issued a $1.5 billion green bond as part of a larger offering in February (Reuters article here).   California PACE providers have also been issuing green bonds to assist their home and business energy and water retrofit programs.  California based Renovate America, for example, issued a $320 million green bond in late September (details here).

California leaders see the value of improving the green bond marketplace. “Greater use of green bonds could provide a secure and growing funding stream for governments and private industries to meet the challenge of curbing climate pollution,” said state Treasurer John Chiang in late 2015. “We want to see what we can do at the California State Treasurer’s Office to unlock the potential of the green bond market and create a bigger market for these investment tools.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

Clean Manufacturers Can Qualify for Sales Tax Exclusion

Tesla used it.  So has Karma Automotive, fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy, biofuel producer CleanWorld and many other clean technology, alternative energy and recycled product manufacturers.

What they used is a little-known state of California program that allows certain manufacturers to avoid paying sales tax on manufacturing equipment.

With sales taxes running as high as 9% in many areas, the savings can be quite substantial.  Tesla, for example, has already received many millions of dollar in benefits.  For a relatively small manufacturers buying around $2 million in equipment, the benefit can approach $200,000.  This can make a huge difference for a new or growing company.

The California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA) administers the program.  CAEATFA, chaired by state Treasurer John Chiang, can allocate up to $100 million in exclusions per year to qualified manufactures.

This tax benefit can be used by many types of manufacturers, including:
  • alternative energy such as solar photovoltaic, biogas, biomass, landfill gas, and renewable fuels;
  • advanced transportation such as electric vehicles; 
  • recycled feedstock users such as composters; and
  • advanced manufacturers, as defined

"We were successful last year to have the continuation of the sales tax exclusion program," says Treasurer Chiang in a recently posted video about the program.  "We think this is an important element in partnering with alternative energy and advanced transportation companies ... to make sure that we continue to spur innovation .. to spur growth in these advanced fields through the 21st century."

California State Treasurer John Chiang

Since it is a tax exclusion, companies receiving the benefit do not receive a check or a tax deduction.  Instead, they are authorized to avoid paying sales tax on qualified equipment.  The benefit doesn't come to them unless and until they actually buy manufacturing equipment.  CAEATFA Executive Director Deana Carrillo is quoted in a Los Angeles Times article  late last year explaining the basic mechanics of the program:

"We're not writing anyone a check.  We're the last dollar in. These guys have got to get their financing together, make their decision, buy their property, get ready to buy the equipment, and then we're giving them a benefit at the margin."  (Source:  here)
Some of the companies that have benefitted from CAEATFA Sales Tax Exclusion
(Note:  Tesla has benefitted from the exclusion under additional applications)  Source:  here

In 2016,CAEATFA reached the $100 million benefit cap early in the year and they are expected to reach the 2017 cap within the fist few months of the year.  They do, however, accept applications on a rolling basis, per the schedule posted on their website here.  Their next application deadline is October 14.  Applications are scored and the highest scoring applications will have the advantage when the 2017 exclusions are given out.

For more information, including application materials, FAQs, fee schedules and more, see the CAEATFA Sales Tax Exclusion website at:

Monday, September 19, 2016

California Green Muni Bond Issuances Top $1.6 Billion

Port of Los Angeles, Midpeninsula Open Space Issuances in September

California government agencies are continuing to expand their green bond issuances.   Two recent bonds pushed the California green muni bond total to over $1.6 billion (see chart below).

The Port of Los Angeles issued $35.2 million in green bonds as part of a larger debt refinancing successfully completed recently. The move marks the first time a U.S. port has entered the growing sustainability bond market where investors support projects and companies making positive social and environmental change.

 The Port’s green bonds underwent an independent review to ensure the transaction conforms to international social and sustainability principles. Sustainalytics, a global leader in sustainability research and analysis whose clients include Apple Inc. and Starbucks Corp., performed the third-party evaluation. The firm validated the integrity of the Port’s green bonds for three projects completed in recent years:
  • The Wilmington Waterfront Park: a 30-acre green space with walkways, bike paths and a children’s playground that also serves to buffer the community from Port traffic.
  • The Port of Los Angeles Police Headquarters: The structure’s environmental and energy-efficient features earned gold-level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
  • The Cabrillo Shallow Water Habitat: a 190-acre feeding area for fish and marine birds.
The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) issued $54,490,000 in tax-exempt and $2,920,000 in taxable green bonds.  Midpen operates in the Silicon Valley region.  The new green bonds will refinance debt original used to acquire an 7,366 acres of open space within the District in the following preserves: Bear Creek Redwoods, El Corte de Madera Creek, El Sereno, Long Ridge, Miramontes Ridge, Monte Bello, Pulgas Ridge, Purisima Creek Redwoods, Russian Ridge, Saratoga Gap, Sierra Azul, Skyline Ridge, Tunitas Creek, Thornewood, and Windy Hill.

“We felt the ‘green’ designation perfectly reflects our mission to acquire, preserve and protect a greenbelt of open space, and to specifically target the growing sustainable and socially responsible investing movement,” said Stefan Jaskulak, Midpen Financial Officer. 

Midpen reports that the financing was well received in the market, generating orders of up to $150 million from both retail and institutional buyers nationwide. In a first, Midpen tapped into the local retail market, selling nearly $8 million to residents of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, individual investors who may already be familiar with the district’s operations and work. 

“It was wonderful to see so many local residents directly investing in Midpen, many of who are constituents and active users of our open spaces,” said Yoriko Kishimoto, Midpen Board President. 

On August 18, 2016, the district received AAA credit ratings from both Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s, the highest ratings available for financial performance. 

“This was a very exciting and successful effort for Midpen,” said Steve Abbors, Midpen General Manager, “We’re saving the public $15.7 million in future payments, paying bonds off three years early, and giving local residents a ‘green’ way to invest in their open space.”

California Green Muni Bond Issuances
General Purposes
State of California
Mass Transit, Clean Water, Energy Efficiency
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
Renewable Energy
City of Los Angeles
Wastewater, Digester, Water Purification
East Bay Municipal Utility District
Clean Drinking Water, Conservation, Flood Protection, Renewable Energy, Biodiversity
City of Los Angeles
Wastewater, Water Purification, Digester
San Diego Unified School District
Energy Efficient Buildings, Renewable Energy
Clean Water, Water Pollution Control
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
Clean water, wastewater
San Diego County Water Authority
Water Efficiency
Midpeninsula Open Space District
Open Space Acquisition, related
Port of Los Angeles
Open space, habitat, green building
(prepared by Michael Paparian 9/19/16)