Rhode Island's Block Island Wind Farm

RI - What do Orsted’s financial problems mean for Rhode Island’s stake in offshore wind?

An earnings preview and rating agency downgrade cast doubt on the Danish offshore wind developer’s long range plans.

“As we mature towards the final investment decision, if the walk-away scenario is the economical, rational decision for us, then this remains a real scenario for us as an alternative to actually taking the final investment decision,” Chief Executive Mads Nipper said on an Aug. 30 call with investors.

Orsted shares fell 25% in the wake of the news.

Now, a top credit rating agency has cast further doubt on the company’s financial future. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its outlook for Orsted from “stable” to “negative,” according to a Sept. 5 report.

“Whereas the impairments don’t change the company’s [earnings] guidance or expected investment levels in 2023, Moody’s expects the headwinds that Orsted is currently facing in the US to lead to its credit metrics being weakly positioned at least until the end of 2025,” the credit rating agency stated in its report.

Moody’s affirmed Orsted’s existing bond and credit ratings, but also warned of “downward pressure” on its future ratings if delays and cost overruns worsen.

Stephanie Francoeur, a spokesperson for Orsted, pointed to the affirmation of existing credit ratings, rather than the outlook downgrade, in an email on Friday.

“Ørsted is rated by the three rating agencies, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch, and all three rating agencies have confirmed our current rating,” Francoeur said. “We note that Moody’s continues to have confidence in our commitment to our current rating, and we’ll ensure that we deliver on our financial plan to provide Moody’s the comfort needed to continue its confirmation of our current rating.”

Orsted is hardly the first offshore wind developer to run into economic headwinds. In neighboring Massachusetts, two companies – SouthCoast Wind Energy LLC and Avangrid Renewables – have canceled their power supply agreements with utility companies, saying the existing payments are too low given increases in their expenses.

Orsted insisted as recently as June that it had no plans to renege on its electricity agreements with Rhode Island. The existing, 2019 agreement inked with the-utility operator National Grid gives the developer 9.84 cents per kilowatt-hour for 400-megawatts of electricity from the offshore wind facility over the entire 20-year contract. National Grid in turn would earn $4.6 million in renewable energy credits sold from the project.

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