The Europeans are coming. From offshore wind, to solar, to the ballooning corporate renewables market, utilities, oil majors and developers are heading across the Atlantic for a piece of that gigantic American power pie.
Many of the companies on this (non-exhaustive) list have been laying the foundations of this effort for some time. Here are seven we'll be keeping a close eye on in 2020.
The Danish offshore wind giant laid bare the scale of its U.S. ambitions with its $510 million deal for Deepwater Wind and then, more surprisingly, its acquisition of onshore wind and solar developer Lincoln Clean Energy. It now has 1 gigawatt of onshore wind up and running, 670 megawatts under construction plus a 2.5-gigawatt pipeline. In November it decided to press ahead with a 460-megawatt solar-plus-storage project in Texas.
Tellingly, in November it also established its own energy trading office in Chicago. For now, traders are maximizing the company’s onshore wind power by reducing the company’s merchant risk.
As Ørsted's American offshore wind portfolio starts to deliver significant amounts of power in the early to mid-2020s, the company will rapidly rise up the rankings of U.S. renewable power producers in terms of megawatt-hours produced and gigawatts under management.
At the end of 2019, the Italian utility giant Enel, which claims its 43-gigawatt fleet of renewable generation is the largest in the world, declared a 2050 decarbonization target. To begin the climb, the Italian utility group is committing half of its annual investments for the period 2020-2022 to the build-out of 14.1 gigawatts of renewable power.
A sizable 5.1-gigawatt chunk of this new capacity will be in the U.S. and Brazil, much of it backed by commercial and industrial power-purchase agreements thanks to Enel Green Power's early and successful push into the corporate renewables market. It’s setting aside €4.7 billion ($5.2 billion) to fund these projects during the three-year period.
The 2019 acquisition of its long-time U.S. development partner Tradewind, and its multi-gigawatt U.S. pipeline, suggest Enel's U.S. story still has a long way to run.
Shell is a household name in the U.S. thanks to its ubiquitous gas stations, but it's less well known in the power sector. That could change soon. The oil supermajor has not hidden its ambition to become a retail power supplier in the U.S., and the pieces are quickly falling into place.
It already has stakes in retailer Inspire Energy and its deal for Texan firm MP2 Energy in 2017 included a C&I supply business. Maarten Wetselaar, director of Shell’s integrated gas and new energies division, told Greentech Media the company would “absolutely” look to establish a utility business in deregulated states. (It already runs a Shell-branded supplier in the U.K.)
Meanwhile, in 2019 Shell cemented its place in the quickly emerging U.S. offshore wind market, when its Mayflower Wind joint venture with EDP Renewables won an 804-megawatt contract in Massachusetts' second offshore wind procurement.
German utility giant EnBW had a near miss in securing its own position in the U.S. offshore market in 2019, but the firm would appear to be emboldened, rather than deterred.
“As painful as it was to lose, it gave us confidence because we’d valued the market pretty closely,” Bill White, managing director of EnBW North America, told Greentech Media in the summer, adding that the demand from New York and New Jersey equates to “the largest regional offshore wind market in the world right now.”
EnBW doubled its offshore wind capacity in Europe in 2019, adding 609 megawatts via the Albatros and Hohe See projects.
The company expects the U.S. to represent 10 percent of the global offshore wind market by the latter stages of the 2020s. According to the firm’s Capital Markets Day presentation, it intends to bid on both coasts of the U.S. next year, for a zone near New York and via a joint venture in California.
Ever since BP first took up its now expanded investment in U.K.-based solar developer Lightsource, international expansion was at the forefront of its plans. Lightsource was already working overseas, in India for example, but the past two years have seen it move into multiple new markets. In 2019 it acquired its first project rights in European solar darling Spain. But its most notable progress, perhaps, has come in the U.S.
Former SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith joined as Lightsource BP's CEO for the Americas this year. In September the company closed finance on 125 megawatts of projects spread across California, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Kansas. Its North America pipeline of projects in development or construction now stands at 3 gigawatts.
BP recently upped its stake in the partnership to 50 percent, making the operation a bona fide joint venture.
For German utility RWE, 2019 was a transition year. The company concluded a complex asset swap with rival E.On that left the latter with a huge supplier business and positioned RWE as a global force in renewable power.
In the U.S., RWE has a pipeline in excess of 10 gigawatts, and with the E.On deal in the rearview mirror, the firm can now concentrate on execution. A 30-year PPA signed with Georgia Power in November could be a sign of things to come. The 195-megawatt solar-plus-storage facility will be operational in late 2021.
RWE is committed to spending €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) on renewables annually, with those funds potentially doubling via project partnerships.
While the U.K. energy storage manufacturer is a relative unknown in the U.S., it now has more than 10,000 residential batteries connected in Japan that are able to behave as a virtual power plant. That’s substantial given the entire U.S. residential market in 2018 was 15,000 units.
The firm uses the same aggregation concept as a number of other energy storage providers such as Shell’s sonnen. Among Moixa’s differentiators are its proprietary software platform, small physical footprint and the equally small price tag of its lithium-ion phosphate systems. In the U.K., a Moixa system can be less than half the cost of a Tesla Powerwall. The firm has been backed by Honda and Japanese conglomerate Itochu Corporation.
With more to come, it is now eyeing new overseas markets.
“We're looking at models into [other parts of] Europe, Australia and the U.S. and considering how best to take our technology more global," CEO Simon Daniel told GTM. "We will raise additional capital very soon to enable further and faster support of these international markets."