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Renewable Energy & Cleantech

Accounting Considerations for PPAs: Q&A with John Powers

In this Q&A, John Powers addresses the primary accounting considerations that commercial, industrial, and institutional (C&I) energy buyers face regarding power purchase agreements (PPAs).

What accounting standards regulate global PPAs?
Public companies headquartered in the United States must abide by U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).  Entities with international headquarters are subject to the International Financial Reporting Standards or IFRS framework.

How do we account for a PPA under either GAAP or IFRS standards?   
Certain deal structures or terms will trigger different types of accounting considerations under GAAP or IFRS.  As PPA deals have characteristics similar to financial swaps and leases, it is important to explore – early on – whether or not they will prompt mark-to-market accounting, lease accounting, or consolidation.  The most common concern is that a deal will be considered a derivative, and therefore trigger mark-to-market accounting.

Is mark-to-market accounting necessary, particularly in regards to financial (virtual) PPAs?
No.  In our experience, there have been few cases where an entity has chosen – or needed – to mark the contract to market.  Under GAAP, financial PPAs rarely fulfill all of the conditions necessary to qualify as a derivative.  We have never seen a corporate PPA, under this standard, with a contract that has been marked-to-market.

Financial PPAs under IFRS usually do meet the criteria to qualify as a derivative; however, IFRS also offers other options that can avoid needing to mark the contract to market.  Part of our role at Schneider Electric is to help clients navigate these options.  The industry is full of deals that do not require mark-to-market accounting.

At what point in the PPA process should our accounting team get involved?
Immediately.  Your accounting team will have specific constraints that must be considered before you go to market.  It is in your best interest to engage them right off the bat so that you can efficiently structure deal requests based off of your organization’s financial parameters and accounting considerations.

Could you give us a few examples of early decisions that are influenced by accounting parameters?
Accounting feedback will determine where you can do a project and what types of contracts you can engage in.  For instance, can your organization do a project in a region where you don’t have load?  Are you able to ask for a minimum production guarantee from the developer?  Should you do a fixed-volume contract, or do you need to do an as-generated contract?  Each outcome will be affected by your accounting constraints and define what type of deal structure will be the best fit for your company.

How can Schneider Electric help?
Our PPA team has over 60 years of combined experience in strategic renewable energy acquisition and established relationships with subject-matter experts at the Big 4 accounting and auditing firms.  We have seen countless PPA deals structured, and we offer our deep industry knowledge on how other C&I buyers have successfully satisfied their accounting requirements.  Our process empowers your organization with expertise to choose the best deal structures and make well-informed accounting decisions.

Get in touch with our team of experts today to talk about what your company stands to gain from signing a renewable power purchase agreement.

While we strive to provide the best and most up-to-date information, we’re advisors, not accountants or lawyers.  None of the following is intended to be accounting or legal advice.  If you have questions that require professional guidance, we encourage you to consult a CPA or an attorney.