To complete a transaction, you will need to build a team with the ability to manage a variety of key issues. Your team may be a combination of internal city staff and external subject matter experts, but will likely include some combination of the following:
Consultants and brokers: When hiring an external expert, consider how their firm will be compensated. Some organizations bill by the hour (i.e., consultants), while other firms take some, or all, of their compensation as a portion of every MWh sold as part of a PPA: this is often arranged as a fixed ¢/MWh over time (i.e., brokers). While most companies are open to both forms of payment, you should know how the firm is being paid. Firms with success fees (a fee paid for successfully closing a transaction) can have an incentive to close as large a deal as possible regardless of whether it is ultimately in the city’s best interests.
Energy trading firm: After a PPA is signed and the project begins operating, your city will need someone with the skills and proper credentials to balance your energy generation and demand by buying and selling power into the wholesale market. This entity could be someone in your city energy office, your retail electricity provider, or a third-party energy trading firm.
Build a Team
You will need to work closely with your city’s internal finance team to evaluate any potential deals from a financial and risk perspective. The finance team will need to evaluate the potential financial risks for your city and whether a deal could impact the city’s credit score. You may want to share the technical and financial risk sections of this guide with the finance team as a starting point.
Renewable PPA expertise
PPAs require that the buyer (your city) accept some level of uncertainty in the PPA operational and financial performance. You will need someone who can create a financial model of the transaction and evaluate how volume, shape and price risk could impact the deal’s performance. Your city may have an energy office with this expertise. If not, you should consider hiring an external advisor to assist with your analysis. There are a number of specialized firms that can assist buyers with virtual or physical PPA transactions.
You will likely require both internal and external legal support to fully evaluate a PPA’s legal considerations. Your legal staff will need to consider what contractual requirements may be necessary to accommodate local bylaws and city purchasing requirements. External council can also provide expert advice on standard contract clauses and help you select a project and negotiate the deal. For more information, see Stoel Rives’s free guide to legal issues.
You should plan to engage with your procurement department to understand city restrictions and requirements for procurement processes, including requests for information (RFIs) or requests for proposals (RFPs). Principal Contract Term Overview:
Stoel Rives has put together a guide The Law of Solar: A Guide to Business and Legal Issues that includes considerations for PPAs.
The core team will also be responsible for engaging internal and external stakeholders at different stages in the process. It is helpful to identify these stakeholders early in the process, so they can be quickly engaged throughout the process. Internally, these stakeholders may include your city’s legal or general counsel, finance or budget officer, and energy manager. Externally, these stakeholders can include other cities and advocacy groups.
Your city manager or city council is a particularly important stakeholder. Steps along the way should be reviewed with the manager/council so they are aware of the process and engaged long before they are needed for any approvals.