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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Exclusive: Masdar eyes fresh investment opportunities abroad including in Latin America 

The Abu Dhabi state-owned renewables developer is looking to deploy around Dh4bn over the next few years

As Egypt’s economy expands, so do the opportunities to provide energy from renewable sources, said Mohamed Al Ramahi, chief executive of Masdar. Ravindranath K / The National
As Egypt’s economy expands, so do the opportunities to provide energy from renewable sources, said Mohamed Al Ramahi, chief executive of Masdar. Ravindranath K / The National

Abu Dhabi clean energy firm Masdar is eyeing fresh investment opportunities outside the UAE and is considering entry into Latin America to help expand its operations globally, its chief executive Mohamed Al Ramahi said.

Masdar, which is owned by Abu Dhabi strategic firm Mubadala Investment Company, manages a diverse portfolio of renewable energy assets and is looking to invest a further Dh4 billion over the next few years in energy projects globally, the chief executive said last year.

A recent swathe of economic initiatives in Saudi Arabia, particularly around renewable energy and its planned mega-city Neom, could present opportunities.

“Neom is a great initiative, it is very similar to Masdar City in terms of concept but at a much larger scale,” Mr Al Ramahi said.

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Masdar City, the company’s flagship development in Abu Dhabi, is a carbon-neutral project that is home to about 530 companies, including international energy services firms such as Siemens and Schneider Electric, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and the headquarters for the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The development has a 98 per cent occupancy rate, with all of its units fully leased, said Mr Al Ramahi.

The Saudi government in October launched Neom, an ambitious development project for a new city spanning 26,500 square kilometres and costing about $500bn, which will be sourced from the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund as well as international investors.

The project, located in the country’s north-west, will be developed on an area of land that stretches into neighbouring Egypt and Jordan. It is scheduled to be completed by 2025.

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The National reported that Siemens, Europe’s largest industrial manufacturing firm, has expressed interest in Neom.

Masdar is benefiting from increasing investments in renewable energy globally and particularly in the Mena region, where falling prices of wind and solar and government plans to reduce dependence on fossil fuels for power production are driving growth.

The share of renewables in the Middle East power mix is forecast to rise to 20.6 per cent or 100 gigawatts by 2035 from 5.6 per cent or 16.7 GW in 2016, according to the Middle East Power Outlook 2035 report released by Siemens on Sunday.

Masdar is also looking away from the region into opportunities in Latin America, in markets including Argentina and Colombia, he said.

“Latin America is a big market for wind and solar. We will be signing some agreements of some sort,” he said, declining to give details about specific investments or the timing of such agreements.

The company is also looking to make inroads in the growing shift towards renewables in China and India.

“We would like to also invest in both countries China and India, just to be specific, but also South East Asia.

“In Indonesia, we have started our development programme there,” said Mr Al Ramahi, referring to Masdar’s plans to deploy a floating 200MW solar photovoltaic project in the heart of Indonesia’s jungles.

Masdar, which has built a wind portfolio that includes 1 GW of offshore wind capacity across the UK, Jordan and the Seychelles, is now eyeing the burgeoning Egyptian wind sector.

The firm is looking at a collaboration between local Egyptian companies and Japan’s Marubeni to develop about 800MW of wind projects across the North African state.

“Basically we will put our portfolio together and develop bigger projects in Egypt,” said Mr Al Ramahi.

Masdar’s chief executive shrugged off plans for privatisation but said the renewable energy developer will be looking at packaging some of its portfolio assets in the form of a real estate investment trust (Reit).

“We have nice sizeable real estate green assets that are generating healthy returns. Potentially the idea is to go out there to do a private placement and later on we can do a Reit, but not now,” he said.

Separately, Masdar said yesterday it has purchased a 49 per cent stake in Montenegro’s first wind energy project, a 72MW onshore wind farm operated by Krnovo Green Energy, a subsidiary of Akuo Energy, a French renewables independent power producer.

The project has been onstream since November and is Masdar’s second wind farm in western Balkans, after a 158MW project in Serbia, which reached financial closure in October.

The company also said yesterday that it had completed the installation of 290-watt solar panels in more than 1,000 villages living off-grid in Morocco.

The scheme, which Masdar developed in partnership with Morocco’s Office National de l’Electricité et de l’Eau Potable (Onee) provides energy access to 19,438 homes in the North African state.

Masdar secured an engineering, procurement and construction contract to maintain the solar home systems for two years, after which Onee will manage the systems for an additional eight years.