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Solar Will Dominate Clean-Energy Mergers, Jefferies Says

Solar manufacturers will lead consolidation in the clean-energy sector this year because of overcapacity and declining government incentives, according to a survey conducted by Jefferies Group Inc.

Mergers and acquisitions of solar companies will top those of wind-turbine makers, biofuels, energy-storage and smart-grid companies, according to 71 percent of respondents in a survey of about 90 investors the investment bank conducted at its conference in New York on Feb. 23.

“Solar needs to be rationalized,” Amy Smith, co-head of cleantech investment banking at Jefferies in San Francisco, said yesterday in an interview. “It’s become somewhat of a commodity industry.”

Solar-panel production capacity may exceed 38 gigawatts this year, 53 percent more than the median demand forecast, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Prices fell by half last year, contributing to eight solar bankruptcies in the U.S. and Germany since August.

Falling panel prices are also pulling down shares for manufacturers, making solar the clean-tech segment investors are most likely to avoid this year, according to the poll.

Cheap panels also make sun-powered plants more affordable, which is why the poll also found that solar development is the area most likely to attract investment, Smith said.

Almost half the respondents said offshore wind turbines won’t become a significant component of global energy sources until at least 2017 and one-quarter said they never will.

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