Bluefield outlines COVID-19 contingency plans as it continues O&M work

Bluefield Solar Income Fund has outlined the measures it’s currently taking as part of its COVID-19 (coronavirus) contingency plan, in a general update published today (25 March).

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bluefield’s key service providers have all successfully implemented remote working policies for the individuals working on Bluefield Solar. Its London-based Investment Adviser, Bluefield Partners, has moved ten Bluefield Solar focused personnel to remotely overseeing the investment performance of existing assets, portfolio enhancement and Bluefield’s power sales strategy.

It is expected that a number of the 19 employees Bluefield Operations has focused on O&M of assets that are regionally based will be categorized as ‘Key Workers’, allowing them to carry out their activities effectively, Bluefield said.

Solar Power Portal contacted the Cabinet Office to clarify whether O&M workers will be classified as key workers, with a spokesperson pointing towards the official list of key workers for childcare purposes – with electricity workers included within this – and reiterating the advice that those who absolutely cannot work from home can continue to travel into work.

Bluefield Services also has 28 employees successfully working remotely, the company said. As part of the winter maintenance programme, it has undertaken a major review of the status of the portfolio’s spare parts and has ordered replacements where necessary.

General maintenance across the portfolio, along with transformer and inverter replacements on specific sites are being worked on by Bluefield Operations.

Alongside providing its COVID-19 plans, Bluefield also issued a general update stating that over 60% of its revenues are regulated and non-correlated to market based power prices, increasing in line with RPI and with an average duration remaining of 15 years.

It has 94% of its revenues contracted until the end of the current financial year, 88% of its revenues contracted until the calendar year end and 77% until the end of the financial year 2021.

Reconfirming its guidance of a full year dividend of 7.90pps for the financial year ending June 2020, it said this will be fully covered by its earnings and post-debt amortization. Based on yesterday’s (24 March) closing share price, the dividend yield on the forecast full year dividend was 7.05%, it stated.

The company also stated that it has no subsidy-free assets and no assets in construction, with its PPA providers being investment grade entities and its balance of revenues derived from the sale of electricity through PPAs. Bluefield lauded its PPA strategy in February as helping it to sidestep tumbling power prices, and in September last year confirmed it had made a handful of pipeline agreements for subsidy-free solar.

Its current leverage level is 32% (a combination of long term debt and short term credit facility) to Gross Asset Value, it said. All of its long term debt is fully amortising over an average tenor of 14 years and is without the requirement for refinancing, with the debt service cover ratio over 2.5 times covered.

£44 million has been drawn from its short-term credit facility and is in place until 30 September 2022, if the facility’s one year extension is exercised by the company.

Its policy of increasing the dividend in line with RPI in future financial years remains under review, especially in light of the recent fall in power prices.