European utilities signal $20bn renewables spree

Enel Green Power plans expansion in a number of countries

Enel Green Power plans expansion in a number of countries

Two of Europe's utility heavyweights have unveiled plans to pump a combined €14.4bn ($20.6bn) into renewables during the next decade.

Enel Green Power of Italy is earmarking €6.4bn to 2015 to expand its renewable generation portfolio, while EnBW of Germany separately says it will invest €8bn in the energy sources to help shift the country away from nuclear power.

Enel Green Power, the renewables unit of Enel, Italy’s largest utility, aims to expand production in Spain, France, Greece, Turkey and Romania, as well as the Italian market, Bloomberg quotes chief executive Francesco Starace telling a conference in Dubai.

Enel Green Power could also expand to North Africa and the Middle East after 2015, adds Starace.

About €1bn of the cash will be used to fund solar projects, including the company’s new PV panel factory in Catania, Sicily. The first phase of Catania will cost €300m euros and potential expansion may raise this to €800m, says Starace.

Enel Green Power’s net profits rose 8% to €452m in 2010 on revenues 20% higher at €2.27bn.

The group's net installed capacity at the end of last year was about 6.1GW, made up of 2.6GW of wind, 2.5GW of hydro, 775MW of geothermal, and 134MW of solar, biomass and co-generation.

In a separate development, Germany’s third-largest utility EnBW is planning to spend €8bn on renewable energy and double its renewables capacity to about 6GW by the end of the decade as the country shifts away from nuclear power.

The utility, which is building several offshore wind farms, recognises that “the majority of Germans oppose nuclear power” and that a new consensus on the future of Germany’s energy infrastructure will emerge over the coming weeks, EnBW chief executive Hans-Peter Villis tells shareholders.

He says the company will co-operate with local utilities, municipal authorities and medium-sized companies on decentralised renewables projects.

The renewables investment pledge comes against a background of broader cost cutting by EnBW as it seeks to mitigate the effect of the shift from nuclear. It owns two of the seven older reactors mothballed by the German government following the Fukushima crisis.

Villis says cost reductions in the “mid-three figure million-euro range” are likely from 2013, along with divestments of €1.8bn, to help pay for the renewables expansion programme.

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