French company Total steps into solar energy market

Company spends a quarter-billion dollars to take a stake in a renewable energy company.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Sept. 19, 2017 at 6:07 AM
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Sept. 19 (UPI) -- In an announcement ahead of the French president's speech before the U.N. General Assembly, Total said it took a greater stake in a renewable power company.

The French supermajor said Tuesday it made a $284.7 million investment to take an indirect 23 percent stake in renewable power company EREN RE. Total said could eventually take the company over completely within the next five years.

"EREN RE's momentum will allow us to accelerate our growth in solar energy and move us into the wind power market," Philippe Sauquet, the president in charge of gas, renewables and power for Total, said in a statement. "The agreement with EREN RE is a major step towards our objective of achieving 5 gigawatts of installed [renewable energy] capacity in five years."

The French company is coming off a strong quarter, with adjusted net income growing by 13 percent from last year to $2.5 billion. Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné said when releasing results for the second quarter that his company could "take advantage of the low-cost environment" by taking on new resources.

Crude oil prices are holding steady at a range that's about half the level from three years ago.

Total's announcement was made before French President Emmanuel Macron, a staunch supporter of a push for a low-carbon economy, takes the podium to address the regular meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. The French government so far this year called for a ban on oil and gas exploration and said it would phase out the sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles beginning in 2040.

France has one of the least carbonized electricity sectors among members of the European Union. For Total, the company started investing in solar energy in 2011 and set up its own solar affiliate earlier this year. EREN RE has a presence in markets in Africa, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America and set of goal of having 3 gigawatts of renewable energy installed by 2023, more than triple its current capacity.

The announcements comes nearly a month to-date after Total said it would buy off the oil unit of Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk for $7.45 billion, taking on $2.5 billion of the debt held by Maersk Oil in the process.

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