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Analyzing Rivian's $1 billion investment in a solar project
For those that weren't aware, $RIVN is funding a $1 billion solar project on top of a Kentucky coal mine. Even if this solar project is going to have other backers, Rivian is reported to be the biggest corporate customer of this project. While we don't know exactly how much Rivian has contributed to the project, we do know a few things:

  1. Rivian will purchase 100MW through a power purchase agreement (PPA), producing enough energy to power up to 450 million miles of renewable driving every year.
  2. The PPA will come from the first phase of the project, which will begin providing 250 megawatts of electricity in 2027. This energy will not be consumed directly by Rivian.
  3. The power purchase agreement was motivated by Rivian’s goal of operating with net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

For a company that has lost $32,595 per vehicle sold, why would this auto startup stretch its resources to fund a solar project? With less liquidity in the financial markets, Rivian is planning to raise $1.5 billion by issuing convertible bonds. The Verge wrote an article stating that "Scaringe puts Rivian firmly in the category of companies that not only want to eliminate their own carbon emissions but also help create new capacity for renewable energy to be created."

It's hard to justify the investment from a capital allocation perspective. The best justification I can find is the idea that renewable energy projects wouldn’t be able to get off the ground without PPAs with corporations. Without any ownership or revenue, there is no sound financial basis for Rivian's $1 billion investment. It's only the sustainability and branding benefits that Rivian receives from this deal and how exactly it benefits Rivian in the long run is unclear. Maybe ESG will takeover and become the new way of measuring a firm's creditworthiness and Rivian wants to get ahead on that future.

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The Verge
Rivian CEO: “There’s far too much greenwashing in the system”
Companies that don’t create new capacity are “greenwashing.”

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