Officials in Brussels have approved RWE’s deal for fellow German utility E.ON’s global renewable energy project pipeline. The €40 billion ($44.1 billion) asset swap has been under scrutiny by the European Commission’s competition watchdog.
To simplify what is a very complex deal, RWE has passed the customer distribution business of its subsidiary Innogy to E.ON in exchange for the development assets. The “new RWE” will focus on renewable power generation.
“Today, Brussels paved the way for the ‘new RWE.’ This makes us one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies,” said Rolf Martin Schmitz, CEO of RWE. “We intend annual net investments of €1.5 billion to consolidate and further strengthen this position. Now we are putting all our energy into tackling this task.”
RWE already has 9 gigawatts of renewable energy assets up and running. According to the firm’s 2018 annual report (PDF), the E.ON deal includes a 17-gigawatt portfolio of largely wind projects, though it's unlikely all of that will end up getting built.
The development portfolio includes the 325-megawatt Kaskasi offshore wind project in Germany, which has been awarded state subsidies at auction. A construction decision on that is due next year. It also includes a 440-megawatt portfolio of U.S. solar projects taken to various stages of progress by the developer Birdseye.
Speaking in an interview within RWE's own annual report, Schmitz said projects in the 17-gigawatt pipeline would still have to meet RWE’s criteria if they are to progress.
“Of course, we can’t make this decision until we have operational control. However, we probably won’t implement a fair share of the projects in the pipeline," Schmitz said.
"Only those that meet our return requirements will be considered. Under no circumstances will we make investment decisions ’no matter what the cost.’ This should really go without saying, but it probably isn’t a bad idea to come out and reiterate it.”
The company will pick and choose the technology it invests in by geography, sticking with offshore wind only in Asia, while only working with solar and onshore wind in Australia.
Regardless of whether RWE does leave a “fair share” of that 17 gigawatts on the shelf, when combined with its own pipeline and its existing portfolio, it will be catapulted to the upper echelons of renewable energy developers and owners.
For comparison, its European peer EDF Renewables has around 13 gigawatts under management today and has been accelerating its development activity in the U.S. and China, among other places.
RWE has some way to catch up with Florida-based NextEra Energy, which bills itself as the world’s largest producer of wind and solar power, and claims an installed wind and solar portfolio of around 17 gigawatts.