Originally published on Renewables International.
By Craig Morris
The Czech utility aims to invest 2.2 billion euros in renewable energy – outside the country. It is another example of a utility going renewable outside of its own territory.
Few details are available at present, but CEZ has announced a major investment budget for renewables and other “new energy” from 2016 to 2020. According to a brief press release, the utility will increase its renewable generation capacity threefold from 800 to 2,400 megawatts.
On Twitter, the firm speaks of the “European market.” My sources on the ground confirm that foreign investments are indeed what’s expected.
There is, of course, nothing bad about a big utility going renewable. On the other hand, we don’t exactly lack utilities in Europe that want to build giant wind farms and solar projects in each others territory, not their own. Because the power market is finite, one company’s share of the pie comes at the expense of another’s. Specifically, utility projects will begin pushing back community efforts in countries that have community renewables.
It is noteworthy that CEZ apparently aims to do business outside of its own territory, perhaps even predominantly (these details are still unclear). The Czech Republic is pushing back hard against renewables at home. But utilities everywhere prefer anyway to compete with third-party assets, not their own. The result in this case will probably be further stagnation of renewables in the Czech Republic while the CEZ competes with Eon, EDF, RWE and Co. (competing with community projects) elsewhere. CEZ works with Aquila Capital in Germany, for instance, on wind farms.
CEZ is not doing that poorly financially but probably needs to expand its portfolio. Moody’s downgraded the firm to Baa1 at the beginning of the month. The utility also recently backed out of a bid for Vattenfall’s lignite assets in Germany.
Of course, not all countries have community renewable energy. CEZ is also investing in wind power in Romania. But even in such cases, the market slowly closes for Romanian citizens and communities that might wish to start making their own energy.
The government in Prague is probably not worried about community renewables at home. And by the way, you can now call the Czech Republic “Czechia.” This month, Czech citizens (Czechians?) woke up to the news that their government had decided for them without any consultation or discussion that the country would have a new brand in English. Citizens were surprised at the news, which reminded them of the breakup of the former Czechoslovakia – a move pushed through by top politicians who did not consult the public or react to the obvious public resistance. Friends of mine in Germany from the Czech Republic and Slovakia say they do not understand why their countries split apart. They still speak with each other in one tongue. Prague, time for some democracy?
Reprinted with permission.
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