3i Infrastructure plc, an investment company advised by 3i, invested in Valorem, a leading independent developer of renewable energy in France, in September 2016.
3i Infrastructure plc (“3iN”) holds a 28.5% interest in the business, with the balance of equity held by management and minority financial investors.
Valorem was founded in 1994 and is an independent renewable energy operator which develops, owns and operates onshore wind farms, as well as photovoltaic systems in France and internationally.
Valorem is one of the largest wind developers in France, having developed over 480MW of capacity over the last 10 years.
The French shift in energy mix – spotting the market opportunity
Over the last decade, successive governments have publicly committed to reduce France’s reliance on nuclear power, driven both by safety and cost reasons. Climate change and decarbonisation have also become increasingly important issues in France, especially in light of France’s pivotal role in the United Nations COP 21 meeting held in Paris in 2015.
The French power market is currently experiencing a significant energy mix shift, to reduce dependency on nuclear.
This shift is supported in law by the “Loi de Transition Energétique” (August 2015) which sets a number of quantitative objectives, including reducing the share of nuclear in electricity production from 73% to 50% by 2025 and increasing the share of renewable energy in the overall energy consumption to 23% by 2020 and to 32% by 2030.
Since 3iN’s acquisition, the French government has committed to:
- continue to develop wind farms below 6 mats under a fixed Contract for Difference (CfD) tariff (without volume limitation) and develop 1 gigawatt (GW) of wind auctions under CfD per annum; and
- develop 1GW of photovoltaic auctions per annum.
The French wind sector – significant growth ahead
Despite abundant resources in wind, installed onshore wind capacity in France was only 10GW at the end of 2015, compared to 36GW in Germany and 28GW in Iberia. The French national plan forecasts total wind capacity to increase to 15GW by 2018 and 26GW by 2023. To date, the French wind sector has received relatively low subsidies and has benefited from a robust 15-year tariff regime, providing protection against power price variability.
A best-in-class wind developer – well placed to capture the opportunity
With in-house capabilities across the entire project cycle and a strong local footprint, Valorem is well positioned to benefit from this shift in energy mix. Led by its experienced management team, Valorem has a significant pipeline of projects at an advanced stage of development that it expects to convert into operating assets, with further projects at earlier stages to bring through the development process. In December 2016, it applied for permits and tariffs for over 450MW of its wind pipeline under the French 2016 subsidy regime.
The installed capacity continues to develop well. Since 3iN’s investment, 57MW of Valorem-owned projects have been commissioned or have entered construction and will add to the 142MW in operation at the time of the acquisition. The pipeline remains healthy, with c. 150MW of projects at advanced development stage.
The solar opportunity
Similar to wind, France benefits from strong solar resources, but installed solar PV capacity remains low, with only 6.2GW at the end of 2015, compared to 36.9 GW in Germany. Solar PV capacity is expected to increase from 6.2GW in 2015 to 8.0GW in 2020.
Valorem has been awarded 4 projects under the CRE3 auction, totalling 24MW of owned capacity. It also has 100MW of PV projects at various development stages that will be submitted in future tenders.
Data as at 31 March 2017.