By Sarah McFarlane
LONDON -- French energy giant Total SE said it would pay $2.5 billion for a 20% stake in the world's largest solar developer, the latest move by an oil major to expand in renewable power.
Total said Monday the investment in Adani Green Energy Ltd. would help it meet its targets for generating more power from low-carbon sources amid a continuing global transition away from fossil fuels -- a shift some analysts say is being accelerated by the pandemic.
The company, along with other oil majors including BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, has pledged to increase spending on renewable energy such as wind and solar power in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. Total plans to spend $3 billion a year on renewables by 2030, around 20% of its annual investment budget and up from $2 billion last year.
The Adani deal gives Total exposure to a leading renewables business in India, one of the world's fastest-growing markets for energy demand. Adani has 54 wind and solar projects in operation across the country, including one of the world's largest solar projects in Kamuthi, Southern India. Based on existing generating capacity and the projects in its pipeline, Adani is the world's largest developer of solar power, Total said.
As part of the deal, Total is also taking a 50% stake in a portfolio of Adani's solar assets and getting a seat on the company's board. The move will help Total toward its goal of having 35 gigawatts of renewable power capacity by 2025, up from around 7 gigawatts last year.
"Given the size of the market, India is the right place to put into action our energy transition strategy based on two pillars: renewables and natural gas," said Total Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanné.
Total and Adani Group, one of India's largest infrastructure conglomerates, have previously made other joint investments, including in liquefied-natural gas.
Major oil companies have boosted their activities in renewable energy in recent years, anticipating that demand for oil will eventually decline, as more of the global economy becomes electrified. New technologies such as electric vehicles, for example, are expected to increase demand for electricity, while denting requirements for oil-based transport fuels such as gasoline and diesel.
Monday's deal isn't the first time Total has invested in solar. In 2011, the company bought a majority stake in U.S. solar panel manufacturer SunPower Corp. However, following several years of losses, SunPower spun off its panel-making business in August to focus on solar-panel installations. Total remains a shareholder in both SunPower and the new Singapore-based company Maxeon Solar Technologies Ltd.
Other major oil companies have also invested in the solar industry. BP took a stake in Lightsource Renewable Energy in 2017 and has since boosted its holding. The same year, Shell invested in Singapore-based Sunseap Group Pte Ltd., followed by an investment in Cleantech Energy Corporation Pte Ltd.'s solar business in 2018.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires