October 16, 2019 / 10:35 AM / a month ago

EnBW finalizes decision to build Germany's biggest solar park

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany’s EnBW has taken a final investment decision to build what will be the country’s biggest solar park as the utility weans itself off conventional energy to focus on trading, wind and solar power, it said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: General view of photovoltaic (solar) panels near Munich, Germany August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

A 180 megawatts (MW) solar park will start up by the end of next year at Weesow-Willmersdorf in Brandenburg state, able to supply 50,000 households, chief technical officer Hans-Josef Zimmer said.

A company spokeswoman declined to specify what the project would cost, only saying it would be “a high double-digit million euros sum.”

“We are accelerating the expansion of solar energy and thus making it our third pillar,” he said, referring to a planned shift in EnBW’s future profitability away from coal and nuclear plants that will be phased out in the longer term.

In a three-pronged approach, the south-western German company has an 800 MW development pipeline for solar power.

In 2017, it won a contract to build the He Dreiht offshore wind park with zero subsidy, after Germany’s 20-year fixed feed-in tariffs under the EEG law were replaced by an auction-based system for new renewable projects that year.

Thirdly, EnBW’s trading arm is drawing on an established customer base to take green power output volumes over long sales periods, providing financial stability to entice developers.

The Weesow-Willmersdorf park represents EnBW’s first solar project to produce without EEG support payments, which are a major cost component within record-high end customer bills - a political bugbear.

Subsidy-free production is possible as the cost of solar modules has fallen by 80% over the past 10 years, said Zimmer.

But he added that renewable power needed to keep priority access to transmission grids to remain profitable.

In a presentation to investors on Wednesday, chief financial officer Thomas Kusterer reiterated a 2020 target for adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 2.4 billion euros might be reached in 2019.

Reporting by Vera Eckert and Tom Kaeckenhoff, editing by David Evans

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