BNP Fund Favors Ireland, Shuns Spain for Clean Power Investments

BNP Paribas Clean Energy Partners GP is studying opportunities to buy clean-power assets in Ireland after the European Union-led bailout bolstered the debt-ridden nation’s capacity to pay above-market electricity rates.

“We think the tariff continues to be attractive,” Chief Executive Officer Joost Bergsma said today in a telephone interview. “Now they have been through their rescue package.”

Bergsma already owns Irish and French wind farms as well as Italian solar generators in the 437 million-euro ($581 million) investment fund that completed its capital raising last week. The fund, which targets onshore wind farms, photovoltaic power plants and small hydro and biomass generators with secure cash flows exceeded its target size by 25 percent.

The fund-raising effort took place as clean-energy stocks slumped and hedge funds increased their bets against an industry that has seen cutbacks in government support. The WilderHill New Energy Index has lost 17 percent this year.

“We’ve done better than we expected,” Bergsma said of the fund-raising efforts. “There is some appetite out there. It takes a little while to find it.”

Italian solar power and German wind farms are among the other assets that the firm is examining, Bergsma said. Spain’s decision to reduce the above-market rates earned by wind and photovoltaic generators will likely deter investment.

“That’s still kept us sitting on the fence,” he said. “They will cut tariffs for new projects quite significantly.”

The fund has already made six investments and will deploy the remaining money over the next two years, Bergsma said. He declined to say how much remains to be invested.

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