Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW), one of Germany’s Big Four utilities, is close to buying a French renewables company as part of international expansion plans that include the U.S.
The energy giant this week confirmed it had been selected as an exclusive bidder for Valeco Group, a Montpellier, France-based developer with a portfolio including 276 megawatts of wind and 56 megawatts of solar capacity.
Details of the offer, including the amount and the timeframe for completion, are under wraps while Valeco’s staff council considers the deal, in line with French legal requirements.
However, if it goes ahead as planned, then EnBW will walk away with ownership of one of the top 10 renewable energy developers in France, with a 1.7-gigawatt project pipeline and annual revenues of around 50 million euros ($56 million).
“Our declared common goal with Valeco is to break into the top five wind and solar players in France in the medium term,” EnBW Chief Technology Officer Hans-Josef Zimmer said in a press release.
The company said the acquisition is part of a renewable energy business growth strategy that has seen it investing €3 billion ($3.4 billion) to date and would involve a further €5 billion ($5.6 billion) in investments up to 2025.
The spend is part of a wider investment plan that will see EnBW stumping up €12 billion ($13.5 billion) between 2021 and 2025, according to comments from CEO Frank Mastiaux on the release of 2018 annual results this week.
Mastiaux said 80 percent of the money would go toward “growth areas” thought to consist mainly of grid and renewable energy infrastructure.
Finding a foothold in the U.S.
Stuttgart-based EnBW entered France only last year, developing onshore wind and solar within its subsidiary EnBW Energies Renouvelables, as part of a broadening international push.
In Sweden, for instance, the company bought two companies in January with seven onshore wind farms and a total installed output of 105 megawatts, along with two grid companies that also have wind farms in their portfolios.
In Taiwan, meanwhile, EnBW last year teamed up with Australian investor Macquarie Capital and Taiwanese project developer Swancor Renewable to develop offshore wind projects. It failed to win capacity in the country’s first auction and is now preparing for the second.
Finally, EnBW has opened an office in the U.S., where it is also hoping to break into offshore wind.
In June last year, EnBW North America and Trident Winds, based in Seattle, Washington, formed a joint venture to advance an offshore wind project of up to a gigawatt off the central coast of California, with a grid connection in Morro Bay. And the company is actively looking for a way into the burgeoning offshore market along the East Coast.
EnBW has said that its international growth strategy follows two main criteria: expanding into neighboring, renewables-rich territories in Europe and carving out a role in emerging offshore wind markets.
Another European renewables giant
In Europe, EnBW already has a substantial offshore wind portfolio. Its 48-megawatt Baltic 1 project was the first commercial offshore wind farm in Germany, and a follow-on plant, Baltic 2, added 288 megawatts of capacity in 2015.
Later this year, the company is expecting to connect two further projects, Hohe See and Albatros, totaling 610 megawatts. EnBW is understandably keen to sell the know-how from these projects into emerging offshore wind markets in Asia and North America.
At the same time, the company is weighing whether to increase its spend on solar projects. Last month it announced it was planning to construct the largest solar park in Germany, with an output of 175 megawatts.
All of this is at the expense of traditional generation, whose contribution to profits has dropped from 80 percent to 18 percent, according to Reuters. EnBW is forced by law to hang onto some of its German conventional power plants, for capacity reserve.
But like fellow European utilities EDF, Enel or RWE, the company clearly sees its future is in renewables. “Planned further earnings growth will be largely attributable to the Grids segment and the Renewable Energies segment,” said EnBW in a press statement this week.