The French utility Engie has polished off its energy transition credentials in recent weeks with a coal plant disposal and a bid for offshore wind.
Reuters this month reported that Engie had completed the sale of Thai coal generation firm Glow Energy to Thailand’s Global Power Synergy Company, the power generating unit of state-owned PTT, for 93 billion baht ($2.93 billion).
The deal, said to be one of the largest in Southeast Asia’s energy sector, was originally agreed in June last year. But Reuters said the transaction was blocked by the Thai energy regulator over competition concerns. That block was lifted in December, Reuters said.
Separately this month, Engie was reported to have submitted a bid for 750 megawatts of subsidy-free offshore wind being tendered by the Dutch government in the Hollandse Kust Zuid 3 and 4 development zones.
Engie press officer Andrea Petolicchio confirmed the company was participating in the tender but said the business was not commenting further on the move at this stage.
Both developments represent steps in a strategy that Engie laid out in 2016 and updated last month.
The company told shareholders it had a “strategic ambition to lead the industry in enabling a cost-efficient zero-carbon transition for companies and local authorities, utilizing Engie’s unique combination of infrastructure expertise and client relationships.”
From 2019 to 2021, the company is planning to invest between €11 billion and €12 billion ($12.4 billion and $13.5 billion) on renewables and “client solutions” such as heating and cooling networks or electric vehicle charging, Engie said.
Petolicchio told GTM that Engie had closed or sold 67 percent of its coal-based generation capacity since the end of 2015. Coal now only accounts for 6 percent of Engie’s total generation capacity, down from 13 percent in 2015.
Engie had pledged three years ago to not build any new coal plants and move away from the fossil fuel, Petolicchio said. “However, Engie has always said that it would respect its commitments, because it is our industrial responsibility,” he commented.
“We cannot shut down power stations overnight and we have to look at the local context each time, in cooperation with our partners and the states concerned.”
In contrast to coal, Engie is planning to add 9 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity between 2019 and 2021. Onshore wind and solar PV will account for 6 gigawatts and 2 gigawatts of the total, respectively.
The remaining gigawatt of capacity will be split equally between biogas and offshore wind, although Engie will look to build more of the latter after 2022. Within offshore wind, Engie will be looking to develop fixed-bottom and floating plants, Petolicchio said.
Engie is already working on four offshore wind projects with a combined capacity of 2.5 gigawatts, he said. The 500-megawatt SeaMade project in Belgium is expected to be operational by the end of 2020.
Potentially following the SeaMade project in 2021, if the fickle French market allows, will come a 496-megawatt plant near the Yeu and Noirmoutier islands on the Atlantic coast of France, being developed by Engie with EDP Renováveis (EDPR), Sumitomo Corporation and La Banque des Territoires.
A year later, Engie is hoping to commission its 950-megawatt Moray East plant in the U.K. Finally, a second 496-megawatt French project, also being developed with EDPR, Sumitomo and La Banque des Territoires, is expected to enter operation off Dieppe-Le Tréport in 2023.
Besides these plants under development and the current bid in Holland, Engie is also bidding alongside EDPR and the German group E.ON on 250 megawatts to 750 megawatts of offshore capacity off Dunkirk, which is due for completion in 2025.
Engie’s path towards renewables closely mirrors that of several other large European utilities in recent years.
For example, this month the French company also took a majority stake in tiko, a Swiss startup with technology that’s aggregating household and business loads into some of Europe’s biggest virtual power plants (VPPs).
The investment came as Statkraft, another European energy giant, unveiled plans to extend its VPP footprint.
Around half of Engie’s new renewables projects would be linked to corporate power-purchase agreements by 2021, said the company last month, again mimicking the ambitions of European peers including Statkraft.