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Morgan Stanley Group Invests $150 Million in Zhaoheng Hydropower

Morgan Stanley and a pair of private equity funds boosted their investment in Zhaoheng Hydropower Holdings Ltd., buying a $150 million stake as China pushes utilities to adopt non-fossil fuel sources of energy.

The Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Fund, FountainVest Partners Co. and Olympus Capital Holdings Asia, made the investment last month, according to a press release issued today. Zhaoheng Hydropower plans to use the funds to acquire hydropower plants and boost its operating capacity to more than one gigawatt over the next two years, from more than 650 megawatts now, according to the statement.

China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, is pushing utilities to increase generation from alternative sources as it seeks to curb reliance on coal and oil. The country aims to get 15 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuels by 2020, and has a target to cut carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product by as much as 45 percent by the end of the decade.

The three firms also invested $150 million in Zhaoheng Hydropower in December 2010, according to the statement. Zhaoheng Hydropower was the first investment in China by the Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Fund, James Chern, a Hong Kong-based executive director at the fund, said in a phone interview. The fund manages $4 billion which it raised in 2007, he said.

China’s dams produced 21 percent of the nation’s total electricity last month, compared with 16 percent a year earlier, data from the China Electricity Council show.

China Three Gorges Corp., the the world’s biggest dam operator, agreed in December to pay 2.69 billion euros ($3.5 billion) for 21 percent of EDP-Energias de Portugal SA to gain access to wind and hydropower assets from Europe to the U.S. That month, the company also agreed to pay HK$2.1 billion ($270 million) for 29.1 percent of renewable-energy producer China Power New Energy Development Co.

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