Rating Action: Moody's upgrades Crockett Cogeneration, LP's senior secured notes to B2 from B3; outlook is stable
Global Credit Research - 08 Jul 2020
New York, July 08, 2020 -- Moody's Investors Service, ("Moody's") has upgraded Crockett Cogeneration, LP's senior secured notes to B2 from B3. The outlook is stable. These actions conclude the review for upgrade that was initiated on June 16, 2020.
The upgrade to B2 of Crockett Cogeneration, LP's ("Crockett") senior secured notes reflects the July 1st emergence from bankruptcy by Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) and its parent, PG&E Corporation (Ba2-stable; Corporate Family Rating) as the utility has completed its restructuring process and will assume power purchase agreement (PPA) obligations, including the PPA with Crockett. PG&E's bankruptcy and the risk of PPA rejection in bankruptcy had been the primary risk constraining Crockett's credit quality since the project derives most of its operating cash flow from its PPA with PG&E that expires in 2026. Through the PG&E bankruptcy, the utility remained current on obligations owed to Crockett.
The rating also acknowledges Crockett's historically volatile financial performance that is expected to continue through the term of the debt. When determining the energy revenue component of Crockett's revenues, the market heat rate used is the short-run avoided cost (SRAC), which has increased the volatility of Crockett's cash flow owing to low natural gas prices, variation in hydrology levels and the continued increase in installed renewable electric capacity across California. During 2019, the market heat rate, which helps determine the SRAC price, increased to an average of 8,284 Btu/kwh from 7,310 Btu/kwh in the previous year, leading to an improvement in the debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) being above the 1.20x restricted payment test for the first time in three years. During 2020, the market heat has declined which will likely lower 2020 results relative to 2019.
Crockett also has exposure to greenhouse gas emission costs each year which also reduces annual free cash flow generation. Given the project is able to defer some of its greenhouse gas emission (GHG) costs based on a pre-determined schedule that trues up every third year, in the event the project does not purchase all of the corresponding carbon instruments in the year GHG emissions are incurred, the DSCR on a cash basis could be less than 1.0x, in such true-up year. As of FY 2019 the project had $16.9 million in carbon instrument liabilities associated with FY 2018 and FY 2019 emission costs yet to be purchased during 2020 and 2021. Crockett faces a large payment obligation in 2021 owing to greenhouse gas emission costs which will test the project's ability to manage its liquidit while also managing its exposure to SRAC determined energy prices. Partially mitigating this risk is the fact that the project has locked in the cost of this liability at $17.45/ton for the 2021 delivery year.
Crockett's liquidity remains adequate with a cash funded 6-month debt service reserve fund of $12 million that was previously backed by a $25 million letter of credit facility that was terminated on March 6, 2020 and replaced with cash. In addition to the debt service reserve fund, as of March 31, 2020, the project had $3.7 million in the major maintenance reserve account and unrestricted cash of $7 million.
The stable outlook reflects the stable outlook of PG&E, our expectation that the project will continue to operate well and that the project will continue to be able to manage its liquidity in terms of meeting greenhouse gas emission costs each year based upon the assumption that the market heat rate will remain within a range that produces adequate financial metrics and positive free cash flow.
FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE OF THE RATING
Factors that could lead to an upgrade
Given the ongoing challenges associated with SRAC and GHG liabilities, the project's rating is unlikely to move up at this point. The rating could see upward pressure if Crockett can demonstrate its ability to cover its upcoming large carbon instrument purchases for delivery in 2021, and an abilityto achieve DSCR that approximates 1.10x on a sustained basis based on the project's current contractual arrangements while maintaining strong operating performance.
Factors that could lead to a downgrade
The rating could be downgraded if market heat rates decline again below the 7,000 level on a sustained basis, if there are sustained increases in carbon prices beyond 2021, if the project experiences chronic operating problems that cannot be addressed in a manageable timeframe, or if the DSCR is expected to hover well below 1.0x consistently. Also, Crockett's rating would be negatively affected if PG&E's credit quality were to severely deteriorate or if the project lost its Qualifying Facility (QF) status.
Crockett is a California limited partnership formed in 1986 to own and operate a 240 megawatt natural gas-fired electric power and steam cogeneration facility located at the C&H sugar refinery in Crockett, California. The entire electric output is sold to PG&E under a 30-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that expires in May 2026, and the steam is sold to C&H under a steam sales agreement that expires in 2026. The facility operates as a QF as defined under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA). Consolidated Asset Management Services (CAMS) provides operations and maintenance services.
Crockett is currently indirectly owned by GEPIF NAP I Holdings, LLC (FREIF), who is indirectly owned by an infrastructure fund managed by BlackRock, and 8.27% by Osaka Gas Company, Ltd.
The principal methodology used in this rating was Power Generation Projects published in June 2018 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1106413. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.
For further specification of Moody's key rating assumptions and sensitivity analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and Sensitivity to Assumptions in the disclosure form. Moody's Rating Symbols and Definitions can be found at: https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_79004.
For ratings issued on a program, series, category/class of debt or security this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series, category/class of debt, security or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.
For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.
The rating has been disclosed to the rated entity or its designated agent (s) and issued with no amendment resulting from that disclosure.
This rating is solicited. Please refer to Moody's Policy for Designating and Assigning Unsolicited Credit Ratings available on its website www.moodys.com.
Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.
Moody's general principles for assessing environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks in our credit analysis can be found at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1133569.
The Global Scale Credit Rating on this Credit Rating Announcement was issued by one of Moody's affiliates outside the EU and is endorsed by Moody's Deutschland GmbH, An der Welle 5, Frankfurt am Main 60322, Germany, in accordance with Art.4 paragraph 3 of the Regulation (EC) No 1060/2009 on Credit Rating Agencies. Further information on the EU endorsement status and on the Moody's office that issued the credit rating is available on www.moodys.com.
Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.
Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.
Jennifer Chang Vice President - Senior Analyst Project Finance Group Moody's Investors Service, Inc. 250 Greenwich Street New York, NY 10007 U.S.A. JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376 Client Service: 1 212 553 1653 A.J. Sabatelle Associate Managing Director Project Finance Group JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376 Client Service: 1 212 553 1653 Releasing Office: Moody's Investors Service, Inc. 250 Greenwich Street New York, NY 10007 U.S.A. JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376 Client Service: 1 212 553 1653
© 2020 Moody's Corporation, Moody's Investors Service, Inc., Moody's Analytics, Inc. and/or their licensors and affiliates (collectively, "MOODY'S"). All rights reserved.
CREDIT RATINGS ISSUED BY MOODY'S INVESTORS SERVICE, INC. AND/OR ITS CREDIT RATINGS AFFILIATES ARE MOODY'S CURRENT OPINIONS OF THE RELATIVE FUTURE CREDIT RISK OF ENTITIES, CREDIT COMMITMENTS, OR DEBT OR DEBT-LIKE SECURITIES, AND MATERIALS, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND INFORMATION PUBLISHED BY MOODY'S (COLLECTIVELY, "PUBLICATIONS") MAY INCLUDE SUCH CURRENT OPINIONS. MOODY'S INVESTORS SERVICE DEFINES CREDIT RISK AS THE RISK THAT AN ENTITY MAY NOT MEET ITS CONTRACTUAL FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS AS THEY COME DUE AND ANY ESTIMATED FINANCIAL LOSS IN THE EVENT OF DEFAULT OR IMPAIRMENT. SEE MOODY'S RATING SYMBOLS AND DEFINITIONS PUBLICATION FOR INFORMATION ON THE TYPES OF CONTRACTUAL FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS ADDRESSED BY MOODY'S INVESTORS SERVICE CREDIT RATINGS. CREDIT RATINGS DO NOT ADDRESS ANY OTHER RISK, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO: LIQUIDITY RISK, MARKET VALUE RISK, OR PRICE VOLATILITY. CREDIT RATINGS, NON-CREDIT ASSESSMENTS ("ASSESSMENTS"), AND OTHER OPINIONS INCLUDED IN MOODY'S PUBLICATIONS ARE NOT STATEMENTS OF CURRENT OR HISTORICAL FACT. MOODY'S PUBLICATIONS MAY ALSO INCLUDE QUANTITATIVE MODEL-BASED ESTIMATES OF CREDIT RISK AND RELATED OPINIONS OR COMMENTARY PUBLISHED BY MOODY'S ANALYTICS, INC. AND/OR ITS AFFILIATES. MOODY'S CREDIT RATINGS, ASSESSMENTS, OTHER OPINIONS AND PUBLICATIONS DO NOT CONSTITUTE OR PROVIDE INVESTMENT OR FINANCIAL ADVICE, AND MOODY'S CREDIT RATINGS, ASSESSMENTS, OTHER OPINIONS AND PUBLICATIONS ARE NOT AND DO NOT PROVIDE RECOMMENDATIONS TO PURCHASE, SELL, OR HOLD PARTICULAR SECURITIES. MOODY'S CREDIT RATINGS, ASSESSMENTS, OTHER OPINIONS AND PUBLICATIONS DO NOT COMMENT ON THE SUITABILITY OF AN INVESTMENT FOR ANY PARTICULAR INVESTOR. MOODY'S ISSUES ITS CREDIT RATINGS, ASSESSMENTS AND OTHER OPINIONS AND PUBLISHES ITS PUBLICATIONS WITH THE EXPECTATION AND UNDERSTANDING THAT EACH INVESTOR WILL, WITH DUE CARE, MAKE ITS OWN STUDY AND EVALUATION OF EACH SECURITY THAT IS UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR PURCHASE, HOLDING, OR SALE.
MOODY'S CREDIT RATINGS,ASSESSMENTS, OTHER OPINIONS, AND PUBLICATIONS ARE NOT INTENDED FOR USE BY RETAIL INVESTORS AND IT WOULD BE RECKLESS AND INAPPROPRIATE FOR RETAIL INVESTORS TO USE MOODY'S CREDIT RATINGS, ASSESSMENTS, OTHER OPINIONS OR PUBLICATIONS WHEN MAKING AN INVESTMENT DECISION. IF IN DOUBT YOU SHOULD CONTACT YOUR FINANCIAL OR OTHER PROFESSIONAL ADVISER.
ALL INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS PROTECTED BY LAW, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, COPYRIGHT LAW, AND NONE OF SUCH INFORMATION MAY BE COPIED OR OTHERWISE REPRODUCED, REPACKAGED, FURTHER TRANSMITTED, TRANSFERRED, DISSEMINATED, REDISTRIBUTED OR RESOLD, OR STORED FOR SUBSEQUENT USE FOR ANY SUCH PURPOSE, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, IN ANY FORM OR MANNER OR BY ANY MEANS WHATSOEVER, BY ANY PERSON WITHOUT MOODY'S PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT.
MOODY'S CREDIT RATINGS,ASSESSMENTS, OTHER OPINIONS AND PUBLICATIONS ARE NOT INTENDED FOR USE BY ANY PERSON AS A BENCHMARK AS THAT TERM IS DEFINED FOR REGULATORY PURPOSES AND MUST NOT BE USED IN ANY WAY THAT COULD RESULT IN THEM BEING CONSIDERED A BENCHMARK.
All information contained herein is obtained by MOODY'S from sources believed by it to be accurate and reliable. Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error as well as other factors, however, all information contained herein is provided "AS IS" without warranty of any kind. MOODY'S adopts all necessary measures so that the information it uses in assigning a credit rating is of sufficient quality and from sources MOODY'S considers to be reliable including, when appropriate, independent third-party sources. However, MOODY'S is not an auditor and cannot in every instance independently verify or validate information received in the rating process or in preparing its Publications.
To the extent permitted by law, MOODY'S and its directors, officers, employees, agents, representatives, licensors and suppliers disclaim liability to any person or entity for any indirect, special, consequential, or incidental losses or damages whatsoever arising from or in connection with the information contained herein or the use of or inability to use any such information, even if MOODY'S or any of its directors, officers, employees, agents, representatives, licensors or suppliers is advised in advance of the possibility of such losses or damages, including but not limited to: (a) any loss of present or prospective profits or (b) any loss or damage arising where the relevant financial instrument is not the subject of a particular credit rating assigned by MOODY'S.
To the extent permitted by law, MOODY'S and its directors, officers, employees, agents, representatives, licensors and suppliers disclaim liability for any direct or compensatory losses or damages caused to any person or entity, including but not limited to by any negligence (but excluding fraud, willful misconduct or any other type of liability that, for the avoidance of doubt, by law cannot be excluded) on the part of, or any contingency within or beyond the control of, MOODY'S or any of its directors, officers, employees, agents, representatives, licensors or suppliers, arising from or in connection with the information contained herein or the use of or inability to use any such information.
NO WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, AS TO THE ACCURACY, TIMELINESS, COMPLETENESS, MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PARTICULAR PURPOSE OF ANY CREDIT RATING, ASSESSMENT, OTHER OPINION OR INFORMATION IS GIVEN OR MADE BY MOODY'S IN ANY FORM OR MANNER WHATSOEVER.
Moody's Investors Service, Inc., a wholly-owned credit rating agency subsidiary of Moody's Corporation ("MCO"), hereby discloses that most issuers of debt securities (including corporate and municipal bonds, debentures, notes and commercial paper) and preferred stock rated by Moody's Investors Service, Inc. have, prior to assignment of any credit rating, agreed to pay to Moody's Investors Service, Inc. for credit ratings opinions and services rendered by it fees ranging from $1,000 to approximately $2,700,000. MCO and Moody's investors Service also maintain policies and procedures to address the independence of Moody's Investors Service credit ratings and credit rating processes. Information regarding certain affiliations that may exist between directors of MCO and rated entities, and between entities who hold credit ratings from Moody's Investors Service and have also publicly reported to the SEC an ownership interest in MCO of more than 5%, is posted annually at www.moodys.com under the heading "Investor Relations — Corporate Governance — Director and Shareholder Affiliation Policy."
Additional terms for Australia only: Any publication into Australia of this document is pursuant to the Australian Financial Services License of MOODY'S affiliate, Moody's Investors Service Pty Limited ABN 61 003 399 657AFSL 336969 and/or Moody's Analytics Australia Pty Ltd ABN 94 105 136 972 AFSL 383569 (as applicable). This document is intended to be provided only to "wholesale clients" within the meaning of section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001. By continuing to access this document from within Australia, you represent to MOODY'S that you are, or are accessing the document as a representative of, a "wholesale client" and that neither you nor the entity you represent will directly or indirectly disseminate this document or its contents to "retail clients" within the meaning of section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001. MOODY'S credit rating is an opinion as to the creditworthiness of a debt obligation of the issuer, not on the equity securities of the issuer or any form of security that is available to retail investors.
Additional terms for Japan only: Moody's Japan K.K. ("MJKK") is a wholly-owned credit rating agency subsidiary of Moody's Group Japan G.K., which is wholly-owned by Moody's Overseas Holdings Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of MCO. Moody's SF Japan K.K. ("MSFJ") is a wholly-owned credit rating agency subsidiary of MJKK. MSFJ is not a Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization ("NRSRO"). Therefore, credit ratings assigned by MSFJ are Non-NRSRO Credit Ratings. Non-NRSRO Credit Ratings are assigned by an entity that is not a NRSRO and, consequently, the rated obligation will not qualify for certain types of treatment under U.S. laws. MJKK and MSFJ are credit rating agencies registered with the Japan Financial Services Agency and their registration numbers are FSA Commissioner (Ratings) No. 2 and 3 respectively.
MJKK or MSFJ (as applicable) hereby disclose that most issuers of debt securities (including corporate and municipal bonds, debentures, notes and commercial paper) and preferred stock rated by MJKK or MSFJ (as applicable) have, prior to assignment of any credit rating, agreed to pay to MJKK or MSFJ (as applicable) for credit ratings opinions and services rendered by it fees ranging from JPY125,000 to approximately JPY250,000,000.
MJKK and MSFJ also maintain policies and procedures to address Japanese regulatory requirements.