ith a capital injection of €20M, RGREEN INVEST secures a minority stake in Smart Energies Transition (SET), Smart Energies’ independent development, financing, and construction platform. Through this investment, RGREEN INVEST aims to ramp up the IPP pure player’s ambitions to expand its agricultural, commercial, and industrial solar rooftop and parking lot projects both in France and across Europe over the next two years.
The imperative to scale up
Recent weeks’ events have brought into extremely crisp focus the necessity to scale up the deployment of renewable energies not only to mitigate the effects of climate change as we phase out fossil fuels, but also, quite crucially, to develop Europe’s energetic independence.
March 8th, the European Commission stressed the urgency of reaching a diversified energy mix. This means massively and immediately accelerating solar rooftop energy production while mobilizing investments in equal measure. As such, the installation of photovoltaic power plants on roofs or parking lots stands out as a low-carbon and cost-efficient alternative over the long-term, that’s both easily scalable and well-accepted according to the IEA’s 2021 report.
Through its INFRAGREEN IV fund, which invests in equity and quasi equity, RGREEN INVEST brings a €20M capital increase to SET (Smart Energies Transition), France’s leading developer of photovoltaic systems on agricultural, commercial, and industrial roofs as well as parking lots. Investing alongside the Smart Energies group, SET managers and employees, RGREEN INVEST will own nearly 25% of the group’s capital. This rise in capital will enable SET to fund the construction of its secured project pipeline and support the company’s international development strategy. SET’s goal is to reach 500 MWp of installed capacity at over 1,000 sites by 2026.
“There’s huge untapped solar potential across the continent. However, this implies considerably scaling up capital investments,” says Vianney de l’Estang, CEO of Smart Energies. “Which is why we’re delighted to have RGREEN INVEST join us as a partner. RGREEN INVEST has already demonstrated on numerous occasions its ability to support fast-growing RE developers. We’re convinced this collaboration will accelerate the transition our energy sovereignty and our future depend on,” he adds.
Smart Energies currently boasts a consolidated capacity of more than 100 MWp of solar projects in operation. Convinced of the necessity to deploy solar systems across man-made areas, the group created the Smart Energies Transition platform in 2018, determined to make SET a leading independent producer of rooftop solar PV in Europe and a decisive driver of the energy transition. By end of 2021, SET was already operating 212 sites, with a robust portfolio of secured projects (under development, construction, or operation) of 170 MWp, mainly located in France and Italy.
“There are millions of square meters of roofs and parking lots in Europe to be solarized in order to produce clean, local energy at a competitive cost without consuming arable land and resources that are becoming scarcer throughout Europe,” explains Vianney de l’Estang. “In 4 years, the platform has proven its ability to develop, finance and build several hundred power plants and to set up an internal organization capable of managing the granularity of rooftop projects, whose average power remains limited (300 kWp).”
Led by a team of 50 professionals, many of whom have acquired in-depth knowledge of the rooftop segment in recent years, SET displays an extremely agile structure with streamlined processes designed to adapt to the singularities of rooftop solar system development and to the complexity of their implementation, guaranteeing efficient operational deployment at scale.
The future of solar just got a little brighter
In Europe, many countries have set ambitious targets for rooftop solar deployment and are implementing appropriate support schemes. France, for example, has extended the access to the open window subsidy system to solar PV installations with a capacity of less than or equal to 500 kWp (up from 100 kWp), avoiding them to have to go through the Energy Regulatory Commission’s call for tenders, which speeds up the process.
“Decarbonizing the energy sector is critical to our energetic independence and transition to a low emissions economy,” says Nicolas Rochon, CEO of RGREEN INVEST. “A much wider rollout of solar is essential. By exploiting commercial, industrial, or agricultural photovoltaic roofs and canopies, we’re able to harness solar power as widely as possible without jeopardizing our natural, agricultural or forest land.”
“Smart Energies Transition has honed its niche expertise over ten years and adapted its processes to become best-in-class in solar rooftop projects. This transaction fully reflects the INFRAGREEN IV fund’s dedicated strategy to invest in the energy transition and adaptation to climate change by supporting an IPP pure player in the roll-out of its growth strategy,” Nicolas Rochon concludes.