E.ON eyes China wind turbines in green push

FRANKFURT Fri Sep 16, 2011 8:09am EDT

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - E.ON is in talks with China's wind turbine makers, the chief financial officer of its renewable operations said, adding the German utility may in future source turbines produced in the world's largest wind market.

"We have been talking to half a dozen manufacturers and are looking in detail at costs and benefits," Cord Landsmann, chief financial officer of E.ON's climate and renewables unit, told Reuters in an interview.

"It is not a taboo. Building wind parks there, though, is not on the agenda at the moment."

Pushing its renewables business after Germany's decision to abandon nuclear power, the world's top utility by sales has so far sourced wind turbines from European and U.S. companies such as General Electric, Siemens, Vestas and Nordex.

This week, E.ON struck a deal with General Electric, under which the conglomerate will deliver 188 wind turbines, with a capacity of 300 megawatts (MW), for two wind parks E.ON is building in the United States.

But Chinese wind turbine makers, such as Sinovel and Goldwind, have strongly gained market share in recent years, taking four spots among the global top 10.

China has also become the world's largest market for wind power as measured by installed capacity.

However, E.ON has focused on Europe and the U.S. in its strategy for wind, due to favorable market conditions and transparent subsidy schemes that are still necessary because the technology is not market-competitive yet.

Landsmann said that while co-operating with turbine makers and solar companies was something the company was doing on a day-to-day basis, buying into them was not an option.

"We're not doing this to buy stakes in wind turbine makers. Co-operation, yes, but we do not want to build turbines and cells ourselves."

E.ON's climate and renewables unit achieved sales of 666 million euros ($922 million) in 2010, while adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) came in at 452 million.

About 90 percent of the company's 23GW renewable project pipeline is based on wind power projects, with about 4GW in offshore wind projects, including London Array, set to become the world's largest offshore wind park.

"London Array is well on track. We're making good progress and are on time," Landsmann said, adding the co-operation with project partners Dong Energy and Masdar was fruitful.

A 2.2 billion-euro wind park near the mouth of the River Thames in south-east England, London Array is 30 percent-owned by E.ON, while Denmark's Dong Energy owns 50 percent and Abu Dhabi-based Masdar 20 percent.

($1 = 0.722 Euros)

(Editing by David Hulmes)