GREEN DEALS: Wind shift, solar sale

Ownership changes could be on the cards for some of Australia’s largest wind farms, while True Value Solar falls completely into the hands of its major backer.

Shifting winds

Speculation is swirling around Infigen Energy with regard to a potential offloading of some of its wind assets, but those rumours may be just the beginning of a shake-up of wind ownership in Australia.

According to The Australian Financial Review, overseas investors are fighting local super funds to buy wind farms across the country. China and Japan, in particular, are seen to have investors lining up for a piece of the Australian market.

Among the wind farms potentially up for grabs, according to the paper, are Infigen’s portfolio, Meridian’s 50 per cent of the 420 MW Macarthur wind farm, part of TrustPower’s 270 MW Snowtown 2 wind farm, EnergyAustralia’s 111 MW (expanding to 129 MW) Waterloo wind farm and Wind Prospect’s 200 MW Boco Rock development.

Infigen aside, there’s nothing new in any of those being on the block, but it does help to see just how much a shift in wind farm ownership there could be over the coming year.

The news comes a couple of months after a review of the Renewable Energy Target recommended it largely remain untouched.

On the surface this suggests greater certainty, but in this column’s opinion that certainty is on flimsy ground. For starters the government has yet to officially respond to the review and mightn’t for a couple of months yet. Then there are the seemingly growing number of Liberal and National Party MPs lining up to take a swipe at its cost. That doesn’t matter for now, but if polling is even close to being accurate, we will have a coalition government before the year’s out. At such time it will be crucial.

As Tristan Edis pointed out recently, coalition rhetoric is increasingly leaning to the prospect of a scale-back of the target to Origin Energy’s so-called ‘real 20 per cent’ at the time of the next review. As such, the key to the policy remain untouched may be a little talked about recommendation from the Climate Change Authority to push the next review back from 2014 to 2016.

If the Labor government backs this recommendation and pushes a change to the legislation through the Senate then finally there will be ‘certainty’ for investors... well, as much as you can hope for when it comes to climate policy.

True Value Solar

Australia’s largest solar company has been bought out by its major shareholder. True Value Solar, an installer of over 60,000 solar systems across the country, said this week that the German-based M W Group had acquired the 35 per cent of the company it did not already own.

The German engineering and construction company purchased 65 per cent of Melbourne-based True Value shares back in 2011.

“Australia is a country where solar production and consumption profiles match excellently to further develop the residential and commercial market,” Jürgen Wild, Chief Executive Officer of M W Group, said, when explaining the purchase.

True Value has been in the press a bit of late, though not necessarily for the right reasons. In August last year we saw the shock departure of CEO Suren Chandrajit. And this year it has had to deal with being a key sponsor of the Essendon Football Club, which has endured an incredibly tough season before round 1 has even begun.

While there has been a few speed humps, there have also been plenty of triumphs, with the company now employing around 190 staff (up from 14 in 2009) and reportedly claiming top spot (on market share) in the very competitive solar sector last year.

Quick takes

-- Clean energy group CBD Energy has returned to profit in the first half of the financial year. The company said the shift from loss to profit was driven by “sales of solar projects in Italy and the United States, reaching equity close on the Taralga Wind Farm with partner, Banco Santander, and a return to profitability by wholly owned subsidiaries, Parmac and Captech.”

-- ASX-listed geothermal group Green Rock Energy has signed an exploration deal with AWE. At this stage it is merely a Memorandum of Understanding, but it’s hoped it will turn into an official joint venture agreement for development of geothermal power in the north Perth basin in mid-west WA.  The move sent the share price up 100 per cent, albeit from a measly 0.1 cent to a still incredibly low 0.2 of a cent.

-- CO2 Group has acquired Queensland government-owned trader of voluntary carbon offsets Ecofund Queensland Pty Ltd for an undisclosed sum.

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