Australian superannuation fund Cbus has emerged as the financial backer alongside DIF to develop the renewable energy portfolio of Synergy, a western Australian utility.
Cbus said today it and DIF, a Dutch pension manager, will hold equal shares in 80.1% of a portfolio of wind and solar assets known as Bright Energy Investments (BEI). Government-owned utility Synergy will retain the rest of the equity.
BEI will use the investors’ capital to develop greenfield projects. These include the 30MW second stage of the Greenough River Solar Farm and refurbishing the existing 14MW Albany Grasmere Wind Farm.
The joint venture also holds development rights for the Warradarge wind farm and will look to move that project forward.
The BEI investment is the first time Cbus – an AUD 43bn (USD 33.1bn) super fund – has invested in renewable energy without going through a fund manager.
It previously had an indirect interest in renewable group Pacific Hydro via IFM Investors before it sold the business to State Power Investment Corp in 2015.
Cbus’ head of infrastructure Diana Callebaut said the assets in the renewable portfolio have long-term power purchase agreements with either Synergy or other state-owned businesses such as the Water Corporation.
She added that BEI was interested in developing more renewable projects in future alongside Synergy, provided they met the funds’ investment criteria.
Synergy has been scouting for investors to help develop renewable projects in WA for more than two years. It began a tender to select an investor in 2016, and picked DIF and an unnamed co-investor which subsequently dropped out.
The WA election in March 2017 interrupted DIF’s search for a new co-investor, halting the process until later in the year when it was restarted. Cbus was understood to be among a handful of undisclosed parties vying for the right to be in the joint venture at the time.
The BEI fund will help Synergy meet its obligations under the national Renewable Energy Target, under which it needs to build 300MW of new capacity by 2020.