'2015 will be the year we see the first solar equipment produced in Brazil'

Five Minutes with Bruno Plattek of Brazil's BNDES development bank

Brazil's solar industry started 2015 with a bang when state development bank BNDES  – the nation's main infrastructure finance institution – announced a R$26m ($9.8m) credit line for the country's first PV module plant.

That factory is planned by Pure Energy, a start-up owned by a local construction company, which aims to fight for a share of a market that will kick-off with 31 projects totalling 890MW to be built by 2017.

Other heavyweight contenders are already knocking on BNDES' door, including the US's SunEdison, which has announced plans to invest $30m in a PV module and tracking plant.

Bruno Plattek, a technical specialist working in the BNDES Capital Goods Department, is involved in approving finance for PV projects.

What's the importance of this first loan for Brazil's solar sector?

Last year's solar auction started a new investment cycle for the industry, and 2015 will be the year when we will see the first solar equipment plants starting to produce in Brazil.

In the case of Pure Energy, it is the first support from BNDES and the first [PV factory] project to start in Brazil.

How long did the negotiations with Pure Energy take and what were the main challenges?

The deal reached BNDES through the Joint Energy Innovation Action Plan, a programme launched in 2014 involving the bank, power regulator Aneel and Brazil's federal research financing authority (Finep). It opened a call for project proposals in 2014.

The main challenge was how to assess the project's own inherent risk due to its pioneering nature, and because it is [operating] in a new segment in the country.

SunEdison has already said it will seek financing from BNDES. Are you talking to others?

There are other companies negotiating with us and they should formalize their financing requests during the year. Most of them have already met with BNDES officials to familiarise themselves with the credit lines and conditions.

Pure Energy will use crystalline silicon PV technology. Will there be a focus on this, or is the bank prepared to finance other PV technologies?

Crystalline silicon is the most commonly-used solar PV technology worldwide, but there are others such as thin-film. The new methodology for registering solar PV equipment published last year establishes rules for both.

Therefore the credit-taker has a choice, and BNDES has adequate financing for [diverse] companies which could include even newer technologies such as concentrating solar power (CSP).

The local-content rules for solar are very complex. How is BNDES preparing to ensure that its targets are met?

The experience that we have [of local-content] in the wind power sector has resulted in many changes in the wind industry, including in its supply chain. This experience is being used to apply the rules to the solar power industry.