Guest essay by Eric Worrall
How does a green describe the catastrophic aftermath of the $16 billion Abengoa Solar Bankruptcy, the largest renewable corporate collapse in history?
Feeding frenzy in Spain’s renewable energy sector
A wind of change is blowing on Spain’s renewables: companies and investment funds have been on a buying spree, taking advantage of the know-how and growth prospects of a sector still limping out of a crisis.
In 2015 “total transactions reached 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion)”, says Joao Saint-Aubyn, a Madrid-based energy expert at global consultancy Roland Berger.
The biggest by far were the acquisition last year by US private equity firm Cerberus of renewables specialist Renovalia for about one billion euros, and investment group KKR’s buy-out of solar group Gestamp Solar for a similar amount.
And the spending frenzy is unlikely to die down, as German giant Siemens eyes up wind power group Gamesa, and Cerberus is thought to be considering joining forces with US billionaire George Soros to devour T-Solar and its solar farms.
Polo adds that another strong point of Spain’s wind energy sector is that companies involved in the entire production line are present in the country.
The know-how of companies has allowed them “to win projects elsewhere in the world,” says Rubio.
Gamesa for instance is among the world’s five biggest wind turbine manufacturers and is well established in several emerging countries like India, Brazil and China—of high interest to Siemens.
In order to keep growing, however, they need money.
“But many (wind farm) owners are struggling to cope with their debt,” says the AEE, after the sharp drop in public subsidies.
In the aftermath of the Paris Agreement, three major energy investment strategies appear to be emerging.
One strategy assumes that deeply indebted, cash strapped governments can be squeezed for more subsidies – that politicians can be relied upon to stick to their regularly “revised” commitments to generously subsidise uneconomical renewable energy schemes.
The second strategy is speculative – nuclear fusion, next generation nuclear. Technologies which promise a spectacular payoff, once technical hurdles are overcome.
The third strategy is based on evidence and evidence based forecasts of a tremendous ongoing global rise in fossil fuel usage, and massive ongoing investment in an energy sector which does not rely on government subsidies to make a profit.