Spanish power group Iberdrola, one of the world's largest investors in clean-energy projects, pledged to ramp up its investments in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.
Iberdrola’s total investments in 2020 will hit €10 billion ($10.7 billion), up from €8.15 billion last year, as it barrels ahead with its 9-gigawatt portfolio of projects under construction, half of that capacity due for completion before the year's end.
Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting on Thursday (held remotely), CEO Ignacio Galán offered a glimpse of Iberdrola’s post-pandemic strategy. “As soon as possible, we will speed up our investments in order to contribute to economic activity and prevent...jobs from being lost," Galán said.
“Speeding up investments, once these exceptional circumstances come to an end, is the best — I would venture to say the only — way to get through this situation of crisis and uncertainty. Therefore, in 2020, it is our intention to surpass last year’s investment record and reach €10 billion."
Globally, Iberdrola is currently building 30 solar plants, 50 onshore wind farms and new offshore wind farms in France (Saint-Brieuc), Germany (Baltic Eagle) and the U.S. (Vineyard). Earlier this week, Iberdrola also committed to building up its floating offshore wind investment program.
The company also has a pumped hydro project underway in Portugal and major transmission and distribution works in Brazil, New York, Maine and Connecticut. In the U.S., Iberdrola is the majority owner of utility Avangrid, whose Avangrid Renewables subsidiary ranks among the country's largest wind developers.
Iberdrola's renewables investment drive will help "turbo-charge" economies as countries recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Galán said. “In the last few days, we’ve brought forward over €3.8 billion in orders to thousands of suppliers, with purchases in progress for delivery by 2023 standing at more than €20 billion."
As well as the positive knock-on effects across the supply chain, Iberdrola itself expects to go on a recruitment drive.
“We will move forward with the total conviction that we will come through this situation and that this new infrastructure will be absolutely necessary,” Galán said. “To this end, having taken on 3,500 new employees in 2019, we expect to reach the record figure of 5,000 new recruits in 2020.”
That would leave the company with more than 40,000 employees by the end of the year.
Galán's comments come amid challenging times for Europe's utilities. Power prices are down across Europe as a result of cheap gas and the outbreak's impact on demand.
Last week, E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen said utilities would not escape from the crisis “unscathed.” Social-distancing guidelines have forced networks to focus on essential duties only. Staff members whose roles are deemed "nonessential" are working from home, with power plants adjusting working practices to keep employees safe and the lights on.
Iberdrola’s Galán said 90 percent of the firm’s staff is now working from home.