Statoil Makes First Solar Investment, Highlights a Growing Trend 291

Norwegian oil major Statoil has purchased its very first stake in a solar project, agreeing to pay $25 million to acquire 40% of the 162 MW Apodi solar asset in Brazil. The deal is the latest example of a growing trend of major oil and gas companies taking stakes in renewable energy projects.

“The Apodi asset is a sensible first step into the solar industry and can demonstrate how solar can provide Statoil with scale-able and profitable growth opportunities,” Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president of New Energy Solutions at Statoil, said in a press release.

Statoil agreed to purchase the project stake from Norwegian independent solar power producer Scatec Solar in October. The purchase price also included a 50% share in the project execution company, which will enable Statoil to participate and the building and operation of more Brazilian solar projects in the future.

“The potential for solar energy in Brazil is substantial and together with Statoil we are increasing our ambitions further in this market. We are bringing into the partnership a strong track record as an integrated independent solar power producer, while Statoil has a strong engagement and experience from Brazil through its other energy activities,” said Scatec Solar Chief Executive Officer Raymond Carlsen.

About the Adopi Solar Project

The Apodi solar project is set to provide electricity for about 160,000 households. Construction of Apodi was set to start in October 2017, with completion expected by the end of 2018. The total capital expenditure budget for the development is estimated at $215 million. Funding for the project is comprised of 65% project financing and a 35% equity contribution. Statoil’s portion of the equity share is estimated at $30 million.

The Apodi solar project is in the Quixeré municipality of the state of Ceará in northeast Brazil. It is fully-permitted with a grid connection and has a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) awarded in 2015 at an auction organized by the Brazilian government. The PPA had an inflation adjusted offtake price equivalent to $104 per MWh in 2017.

In recent years, Statoil estimates about 3GW of solar projects have been awarded in Brazil in three consecutive utility scale solar auctions. Another 7GW is planned to be awarded by 2024.

Following the transaction, Statoil will hold a 40% share in the project alongside Scatec Solar (40%) and ApodiPar (20%).

Statoil’s Green Energy Ambitions

Though the Apodi project is Statoil’s first solar venture, it is not the company’s first foray into renewable energy. Since 2012, Statoil has amassed a sizable wind portfolio that includes three UK wind farms, one of which is the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, Hywind Scotland. In 2016, the company also purchased a 50% stake in the Arkona offshore wind farm planned in Germany, which is set to come online in 2019.

Statoil’s wind portfolio is capable of providing power to more than 1 million homes.

“As part of Statoil’s strategy to actively complement our oil and gas portfolio with profitable renewable energy sources, we have so far focused on offshore wind where we have a unique competitive advantage building on over 40 years with oil and gas activities, “Rummelhoff said.

More Supermajors are Investing in Renewables

Statoil is just one of several major oil and gas companies that are making moves into the renewables business. In December 2017 alone, several notable investment in the sector were inked by BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco.

That month, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAVE) led a financing round that raised $8 million euros (US$9.6 million) for a German company that is commercializing a new technology for the fabrication of silicon wafers for photovoltaics called NexWafe.

Shell Technology Ventures B.V., the corporate venture capital arm of Royal Dutch Shell, was likewise part of a group of investors that invested a combined $9 million in a Series B equity round for SolarNow, a Dutch company that installs off-grid solar energy systems in East Africa.

Meanwhile, BP paid $200 million for a 43% equity stake in Lightsource, the largest solar development company in Europe that is focused on acquiring, developing and managing large-scale solar projects.

Like Statoil, BP’s move is also part of a concerted effort to invest in renewables. BP has an Alternative Energy Business with interests in onshore wind energy across the US capable of generating 2.3GW, and as well as stakes in Brazilian biofuels plants that produce around 800 million liters of ethanol equivalent per year.

Green Energy is Gaining Steam

These deals comes as technological improvements and lower costs are transforming solar into an attractive power source that can compete with traditional sources of energy in important markets. BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy notes that global installed solar generating capacity more than tripled from 2013 to 2016, rising by more than 30% in 2016 alone.

The growing viability of renewable energy sources is evident across the globe, and the appetite for these projects is increasing globally as countries work to meet commitments made during the Paris Agreement in 2015 amid growing concern about climate change.

Now, the building momentum for these installations has even caught the eye of supermajors like Statoil, indicating that an undeniable wave of change is underway in the way the world thinks about energy.

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