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Danish utility strikes out big time -- E2 buys Cinergy's Spanish wind

Danish utility Energi E2, which distributes power in the east of the country, is aiming to become one of the wind industry's leading investor-developers in Europe. Through the acquisition of wind power stations and projects in Sweden, Greece, and Spain, plus a third share of Norwegian utility Narvik and purchase of 200 MW of Swedish hydropower, E2 is challenging Denmark's second major utility, Elsam, for supremacy overseas.

Elsam and E2 are both building major offshore wind farms in Denmark, Elsam at Horns Rev in the North Sea (Windpower Monthly, June 2002) and E2 at Rødsand in the south Baltic Sea. A fusion of the two competitors -- or their overseas activities -- "is always worth considering," as E2's managing director Torkil Bendtsen, puts it. Elsam is also involved in offshore wind development in Britain.

Most recently Energi E2 bought Cinergy Renovables Ibericas SL (CRISL) from Cinergy Global Power of the United States. CRISL has an operational portfolio of 203 MW of wind energy, biomass and mini hydro power, of which Cinergy owns 93 MW. Energi E2 is also taking over a series of renewable energy projects from CRISL, expected to amount to 300 MW of new capacity in the next two to three years. CRISL has a further project portfolio of about 1000 MW, of which Bendtsen says about 400 MW can be realised.

US wind assets retained

Cinergy says the sale is part of parent company Cinergy Corp's plan to pay down debt and restructure its balance sheet. The company's Angeline Protogere says Cinergy will retain other renewable assets for now, including wind energy projects in Colorado, California, Wyoming and Minnesota, and a small part of a biomass project in Britain. Although she says Cinergy has an interest in retaining this portfolio, it has been approached by other potential buyers. The decision to sell will be strictly on a business basis, she says. Cinergy has no plans to reinvest in European wind projects, she adds. As well as delivering retail energy services to about 1.5 million electric and 500,000 natural gas customers in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, Cinergy owns about 7000 MW of generating capacity and an energy trading business in the American Midwest.

As Cinergy reduces its interests, Energi E2 will be investing more than EUR 400 million a year in power plant development, says Bendtsen, of which two-thirds will be in overseas projects. Together with outside investors, the company particularly has its eye on a good chunk of the expected wind development of 1000-2000 MW a year in Spain.

In Scandinavia the investments in Narvik and Swedish hydro are made with wind power in mind, he continues. "The investments mean we are in position in Norway and Sweden to immediately take part in realising the huge wind power potential once the political framework is in place," he says. Rising electricity consumption and the increasingly apparent lack of capacity in Norway and Sweden (hydro is almost fully developed and Sweden is planning to phase out its nuclear power) lie behind his optimism.

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