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Upholding financial stability of energy sector: Why IPPs cannot accept debt haircut

Elipklim Kwabena   IPPs Elikplim Kwabla Apetorgbor, CEO of the Independent Power Producers

Tue, 29 Aug 2023 Source: Elikplim Kwabla Apetorgbor, Contributor

The energy landscape is undergoing rapid transformation, driven by the growing role of the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) in meeting global electricity demands. In the intricate landscape of deregulated electricity markets, the role of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) is pivotal in driving electricity generation and supply.

Recent debt haircut proposals by government, driven by economic challenges, have triggered discussions on the potential ramifications for IPPs. This paper reveals the fundamental reasons behind IPPs’ reluctance to accept debt haircut proposals and highlights some important industry references that underscore the implications of such a stance for the energy sector, investor confidence, and sustainable development.

Guardians of energy infrastructure

Independent Power Producers (IPPs) play a pivotal role in ensuring energy security. They invest significant resources in developing and operating power generation facilities, making them essential partners in the energy ecosystem. IPPs as pillars of energy stability operate within a multifaceted energy system where they balance financial sustainability, regulatory compliance, and energy supply to meet growing demand. Their contribution is vital not only to energy generation but also to the overall stability of the market. As at date, the IPPs in Ghana have invested close to US$5billion (privately and commercially contracted debt and equity) in energy infrastructure.

Ensuring and maintaining financial viability

IPPs operate as commercial entities, and their financial viability depends on generating sufficient revenue to cover their operational costs, debt obligations, and returns to their investors. Accepting a debt haircut could severely impact their financial health and ability to meet these obligations that comes with very strict commercial terms, including non-negotiable penal clauses. (International Finance Corporation (IFC) emphasizes the need for revenue predictability and long-term financial sustainability to attract private investments in energy projects).

Investor confidence

Accepting debt haircuts might erode investor confidence in the Independent Power Producers in the Ghanaian energy sector. Investors seek reliable returns and stable operating environments, and debt haircuts could introduce uncertainty, deterring future investments. (Reference: The World Bank’s “Doing Business” report underscores how stable regulatory environments, free from arbitrary policy changes, are pivotal in maintaining investor confidence).

Contractual obligations and regulatory certainty

IPPs typically enter into long-term contracts with various stakeholders, including lenders, suppliers, and off-takers. Accepting a debt haircut could trigger breaches of these contracts, leading to legal disputes and further financial strain. A debt haircut proposal might signal regulatory uncertainty or instability in the market, potentially discouraging IPPs from making long-term investments or commitments that drive technological innovation and energy expansion. (Global Energy Storage Alliance (GESA) stresses the importance of regulatory predictability in fostering investor trust and ensuring the stability of energy investments and The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) underscores the value of long-term contracts in enhancing market predictability and supporting consistent investments in the energy sector.

Credit rating impact

A debt haircut could lead to credit rating downgrades for IPPs, making it more expensive for them to secure financing for future projects. This, in turn, would hinder their growth and expansion plans.

Market credibility and business continuity

Debt haircuts could undermine the credibility of the energy market as a whole, raising questions about the financial stability of both IPPs and the broader sector. Debt haircuts disrupt this financial equilibrium, jeopardizing their ability to meet these commitments.This might dissuade potential investors and disrupt market dynamics. (International Energy Agency (IEA): highlights that policy stability and investor-friendly regulations are essential for achieving sustainable energy transitions and fostering private investments).

Market confidence

A debt haircut proposal might undermine confidence in the overall deregulated electricity market. Other market participants, including consumers, may become concerned about the financial stability of the market, impacting its functioning and competitiveness.

Lack of guarantees

Given the economic turbulence, IPPs are the most worried and concerned about the government’s ability to honor any new payment arrangements that arise from the proposal. Times without number, promises have failed and as a result, trust is lost.

Contract renegotiation concerns

Accepting a debt haircut could set a precedent for other contractual re-negotiations, possibly leading to pressure on IPPs to renegotiate other aspects of their contracts jeopardizing the sustainability and continuity of the investment. Other stakeholders might also approach IPPs with similar proposals, leading to a moral hazard situation where responsible financial practices are not incentivised.

IPPs contribution to the economy

IPPs contribute to in no small measure to Ghana’s economy through job creation, infrastructure development, and tax revenue. Financial instability caused by debt haircuts could compromise these economic contributions.

Lack of guarantees

If the local government proposing the debt haircut is facing economic problems, IPPs might be concerned about the government’s ability to honor any new payment arrangements that arise from the proposal.

Impact on Operations

The reduction in revenues resulting from a debt haircut could impact the maintenance and operational activities of the IPPs, potentially leading to reduced reliability and efficiency of power generation. Reference: World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights how IPPs contribute to driving energy transition, innovation, and competitiveness within the energy market.

Striking a balance

While acknowledging the economic challenges faced by Government of Ghana (GoG), the energy sector’s sustainability and investor confidence cannot be compromised. Independent Power Producers are essential guardians of energy infrastructure and enablers of socio-economic growth. A collaborative approach involving governments, regulatory bodies, and IPPs is necessary to find solutions that ensure financial stability for all parties while safeguarding the reliable supply of electricity.

As we navigate the complexities of the energy transition, the importance of a stable and supportive regulatory framework cannot be overstated. By addressing the economic challenges in a manner that preserves the integrity of contractual obligations and fosters a conducive investment environment, we can continue to advance towards a sustainable energy future.

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Source: Elikplim Kwabla Apetorgbor, Contributor
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