BP’s solar energy arm eyes $8bn worth of projects

22 September, 2019 12:00 AM printer

DUBAI: Lightsource, the solar arm of the global energy major BP, is looking at as much as $8 billion (Dh29.4bn) worth of projects worldwide as it looks to deploy 10 Gigawatts of capacity by 2023, according to its chief executive.

“The target is 10GW by 2023,” Nick Boyle told The National in an interview in Abu Dhabi, report agencies.

Around $7 to $8bn would be required from “a mixture of debt and equity” to deploy the capacity, he added, noting that the cost could fluctuate over the coming years.

Lightsource, in which BP acquired a 43 per cent stake in 2017, is the largest solar developer in Europe and third biggest globally outside of China. Its an example of a broader push by big oil companies to include cleaner energy in their mix. Lightsource’s capacity build-up comes amid a push by fossil fuel companies to transition to energy companies as the global finance narrative turns against hydrocarbons investment.

“These companies have been the energy companies of the world for the last 100 years and they want to continue to be the energy companies of the world for the next 100 years but they understand that mix is changing, solar being a part of that and electricity being an ever-increasing part of that,” said Mr Boyle.

Presently, Lightsource has an installed capacity of 2GW, largely in Europe, but has expanded to Brazil, India as well as Egypt.

In the North African country, where BP is the largest international investor, Lightsource has partnered with construction conglomerate Hassam Allam to work on solar projects. Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with a growing appetite for energy, has a government mandated plan to add 3.5GW of solar energy to grid by 2027. The country is developing large-scale solar parks such as the 1.9GW scheme in Benban, said to be the largest in the world when completed this year.

In Egypt, Lightsource has a couple of 100MW projects in the pipeline, said Mr Boyle.

“Egypt is an interesting market, it’s a very sunny country, electricity prices are rising, and it’s a market where there are large bankable parties that are willing to enter into long term power purchasing agreements and that’s very much the area that we’re focusing at the moment,” he said.