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BNP Paribas Renewables Fund to Add Biomass After Sleaford Deal

BNP Paribas Clean Energy Partners Ltd. plans to tap its 437 million-euro ($573 million) renewables fund to add more biomass assets, after snapping up a straw-to-power plant in northeast England last week.

The BNP Paribas unit, seeking to buy a project of similar size to the 40-megawatt Sleaford plant, is studying potential deals, Technical Director Peter Dickson said in an interview. It’s likely the next acquisition won’t be in the U.K., he said.

The London-based fund is among renewable-energy investors expanding in biomass-fired generation, which uses organic matter such as wood chips, municipal waste and straw to produce power. The 27-nation European Union has set targets for member states to get a certain portion of their energy from renewable sources, aiming for an average 20 percent share across the bloc by 2020.

“We see the renewable industry as continuing to be secure,” Dickson said by telephone. “We don’t see a huge amount of alternatives for European governments but to invest in clean energy.”

The BNP Paribas fund, financed by institutional investors, avoids risk by considering only “fully developed” projects, Dickson said. The “sweet spot” is ventures in the later stages of construction before they enter commercial operation, he said.

BNP Paribas bought the Sleaford plant in Lincolnshire from developer Eco2 Ltd. for 170 million pounds ($266 million) in its first acquisition of a biomass project, it said Dec. 12. The fund already has completed deals in wind and solar energy.

A “significant” portion of the fund is invested in about 10 projects, Dickson said. It’s now in talks on new investments and is hoping to conclude agreements by year-end, he said.

“We’re very active in solar and onshore wind and we’re actively looking at investing in French, U.K. and Irish wind power plants,” according to the director. The fund’s strategy is to split investments equally between wind, solar and biomass, before studying the potential for another fund, he said.

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