Shell invests in ESCO Pacific to drive growth in Australian solar

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Underlining its vision for a world where solar meets the largest portion of primary energy demand as soon as 2050, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has acquired a 49% stake in Australian solar farm developer ESCO Pacific. The investment is expected to accelerate the development of ESCO Pacific’s pipeline of projects and further expand Shell’s global clean energy business.

The deal, the price of which was not disclosed, follows just weeks after Shell made its foray into Australia’s electricity market with a $617 million acquisition of commercial and industrial power provider ERM Power. The two acquisitions complement each other as part of Shell’s plan to use cheap solar energy to power Australian businesses.

“Today’s announcement of Shell’s investment in ESCO Pacific, coupled with the recent acquisition of ERM Power, supports a pathway for Shell to supply more and cleaner energy to utility, commercial and industrial customers in Australia,” Shell Australia Country Chair, Zoe Yujnovich said.

The takeover forms part of Shell’s expansion push into new markets with the goal to become the world’s largest electricity company. Last year, the oil giant released a strategy for the energy transition to ensure the resilience of its portfolio and later announced plans to boost annual spending on renewables and low-carbon energies to between $2 billion and $3 billion by 2025.

In some of its earlier clean energy investments, Shell bought German battery storage manufacturer Sonnen, snapped up a 44% stake in U.S.-based Silicon Ranch, took over U.K. energy firm, First Utility and acquired a 49% stake in Singapore-based Cleantech Solar. It also reaffirmed its ambition to halve the net carbon footprint of its operations by 2050. In Australia, it announced plans for a 120 MW utility-scale PV array to power its onshore gas operations in Queensland.

For ESCO Pacific, Shell’s investment holds the promise of further growth. The company hopes it will speed up the development of its project pipeline as well as open up significant opportunities with a wider range of corporate off-takers looking to procure renewable power.

“ESCO Pacific has been one of the fastest-growing independent solar developers in Australia,” ESCO Pacific’s Founder and Managing Director Steve Rademaker said. “We’d like to build on that growth and continue our rapid scaling by leveraging the resources that the Shell investment makes available to us. This partnership is a testament to the success of our strategy, our business and our team.”

ESCO Pacific is an experienced Australian focused utility-scale solar developer with nearly 500 MW of projects delivered to market since 2017 and a further 350 MW of solar assets under long term management. Its completed projects include the 148 MW Ross River, 75 MW Childers and 95 MW Susan River solar farms in Queensland, and the 175 MW Finley solar farm in NSW. The 110 MW Rollingstone, 110 MW Moura, 85 MW Dingo, 60 MW Mirani, 55 MW Kobaringa, 70 MW Wyalong, 80 MW Mulwala, 100 MW Sandigo, 140 MW Glenrowan, 100 MW Lancaster and 130 MW Horsham solar farms are under development.

Following Shell’s investment, the business plans to expand “its project pipeline both organically and by acquisition, while continuing to deliver projects to market in the coming years”. In addition, ESCO Pacific will be growing its asset management portfolio. The company will continue to operate under its existing management and brand.