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Solar firm TRIG snubs UK by investing £42mln in France

Renewable investor buys into French solar schemes after UK subsidy cuts
Solar firm TRIG snubs UK by investing £42mln in France
TRIG said UK solar opportunities were set to decline as subsidies fall

A major renewable energy investor has turned to France amid cuts to UK solar power subsidies.

The Renewables Infrastructure Group (LON:TRIG) has invested £42mln in a portfolio of 15 French ground-mounted and rooftop solar panel projects.

TRIG, which has a market capitalisation of £751mln, has decided to invest more in non-UK schemes following the government's move last year to cut solar feed-in tariffs.

The tariffs encourage private energy generation by supporting homes and businesses that generate their own power or feed it back into the grid.

TRIG infrastructure director Richard Crawford said the deal would give it highly predictable revenues through French feed-in tariffs "at a time when the volume of solar opportunities in the UK is expected to decline with reductions in government support."

TRIG liked solar because it was well-understood technology which provided reliable power and a strong dividend return on investment, Crawford said.

But he said: "Some of the changes that came in following the new Conservative government being elected were surprising and unwelcome.

"Time will tell but there's now some bedding down to be done and hopefully we'll see some consistency."

He added: "In the UK, there's probably going to be less deal-flow as a result of these government changes."

Last July, ministers outlined plans to end the so-called "renewables obligation" for rooftop and solar farm projects of up to five megawatts early, from April this year.

The proposals included reduced support for projects in development and an end to guarantees of a certain level of subsidy for the lifetime of a solar farm once built.

Ministers also said they planned to cut fixed-level feed-in tariffs by up to 87%, although they backed down by reducing the cut to 64% in revised proposals published last month.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change said solar subsidies had turned out to be more than expected and the cuts would reduce household bills.

But the industry slammed the plans, saying they would hit jobs and threaten the survival of the industry in the UK.

The chief executive of renewable energy company Good Energy (LON:GOOD), Juliet Davenport, said at the time: "Ending support for solar power makes no sense at all.

"On one hand the government says it wants to keep household energy bills down by removing support for clean solar power, yet on the other promises massive subsidies to nuclear."

London-listed TRIG has invested in its new French schemes, based in mainland France, Corsica and French overseas departments, in partnership with Akuo Energy. It is advised by InfraRed Capital Partners as investment manager.

It increases the proportion of solar schemes in TRIG's overall renewable portfolio to about 30% of the total and its share of non-UK projects to about 13%.

The projects had revenues wholly derived from French feed-in tariffs without exposure to power price market fluctuations for an average of 16 years from acquisition, TRIG said.

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