Oil Giant Total Backs Chinese Smart Energy Fund

The venture capital arm of energy giant Total is one of the investors in a new, $250 million private equity fund that will focus on the Chinese energy sector. Investments in the Cathay Smart Energy Fund are expected to center around renewable energy, the energy internet, energy storage, distributed energy, smart energy and low-carbon activities.

The vehicle will be run by Cathay Capital Private Equity, with $50 million in backing from Total Energy Ventures and another $50 million from Hubei High Technology Investment Guiding Fund Management, which has ties to the Chinese government.

After the fund’s first close, other partners are expected to join, bringing its total capital to about $250 million.

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Total’s participation in the new fund “represents a significant growth and innovation potential in the areas of new energies and sustainable development,” Total CEO and chairman Patrick Pouyanné says in a statement.

Total Energy Ventures already invests in China through a 10 million euro ($12.4 million) investment in the Sino French Innovation Fund.

Cathay Capital, founded in 2006 by Ming-Po Cai and Edouard Moinet, focuses on cross-border investments. It manages more than $2 billion across eight funds.

In other sustainable investment-related news from across Asia:

UBS offers green fund for ultra-wealthy: UBS is offering its ultra-rich clients in Asia a multi-asset investment product that’s built on sustainable investment criteria. The new portfolio invests in both equities and bonds, all of which must meet ESG criteria. The Asian product follows the roll-out of a similar vehicle in Europe earlier this year, and it carries a $500,000 minimum investment.

Geli to grow in Japan: Growing Energy Labs Inc., or Geli, plans to expand its presence in Japan on the back of a new round of fundraising. The company, whose “internet of energy” software controls items like behind-the-meter batteries, EV chargers and solar-plus-storage systems, raised $5.5 million earlier this month. The company will use some of the proceeds to expand in Japan, where it already has a few virtual power plants under development. Geli also has projects underway in Australia and New Zealand.

Warehouses, commercial buildings to get rooftop solar in China: A new joint venture will create a platform for distributed solar energy on logistics and commercial rooftops across China. Created by Brookfield Asset Management and logistics company GLP, the new venture will install 300 MW worth of rooftop solar over the next three years. While the initial projects will likely center around GLP’s own buildings – the company has some 350 million square feet of warehouses and other facilities in China – the joint venture will look to other rooftops in the future. A similar joint venture, to build and operate distributed rooftop solar projects in China, was created in February by Asia Clean Capital and EDF Energies Nouvelles.

Chinese oil giant moves toward cleaner energy: The Chinese oil and gas behemoth Sinopec has launched what it calls a Green Action Plan which it says will help it transition to a low-carbon company over the next five years. Under the plan, clean energy will make up more than 50% of the company’s total energy output by 2023. While much of that will come from natural gas, the company also has been boosting its geothermal energy heating subsidiary, Sinopec Green Energy Geothermal, with a goal of tripling its geothermal heating capacity by 2023. To assist, the Asian Development Bank this month awarded a $250 million loan to Sinopec Green Energy Geothermal and its partner, Iceland’s Arctic Green Energy, to expand sustainable district heating services in China.

Green bonds in Asia to soar to $5 billion in 2018: Green bond issuance in Asia is expected to total $5 billion this year, more than double last year’s $2.3 billion, according to RAM Holdings, formerly Rating Agency Malaysia. Demand will be driven by large infrastructure investments in sectors including power, water and waste management, and transportation. Much of this year’s growth will come from Indonesia, which earlier this year issued $1.25 billion worth of green bonds. Among the other likely issuers are Taiwan’s state-owned electric utility, Taiwan Power, which expects to raise about $82 million through green bonds in May. It will use the proceeds for a range of renewable energy projects, including solar, offshore wind and hydroelectric. Taiwan Power issued $280 million in green bonds last year as well.

Floating solar plant launches in Japan: A giant floating solar power plant has started producing electricity on a reservoir in Japan. It was constructed by a joint venture between manufacturing conglomerate Kyocera and financial services company Tokyo Century, which financed the plant; details on costs were not disclosed. The plant, located east of Tokyo, will have a maximum generating capacity of nearly 14 MW.

Electric buses gain momentum across Asia:  Buses across Asia are becoming increasingly electrified. That’s most obvious from the city of Shenzhen, China, electrifying its entire fleet of more than 16,000 buses late last year — a fleet that’s larger than the bus fleets of New York, Chicago, New Jersey, Los Angeles and Toronto combined. Other, smaller bus-electrification projects are underway across the Asia-Pacific region as well. On South Korean’s Jeju Island, a popular tourist destination, BYD has introduced 20 electric shuttle buses, whose 15-passenger size is perfect for the island’s narrow roads, the company says. Meanwhile, Auckland, New Zealand, now has an electric bus equipped with fast-charging batteries from Microvast. The 35-passenger bus is in use at a university campus; its batteries have a range of more than 300km and can be fully charged in less than 15 minutes. Microvast is headquartered in Stafford, Texas and in Huzhou, China.

New platform aims at Asian smart energy start-ups: A new platform intends to connect smart energy start-ups across Southeast Asia. The New Energy Nexus Southeast Asia platform will help finance and link up incubators across the region. The platform is led by the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF ) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, or GIZ. Its intent is “to accelerate the growth of a regional smart energy start-up ecosystem,” according to Hendrik Tiesinga, program director at CalCEF.

Renewable investors need clear policy, regulations in SE Asia: Financing for renewable energy remains difficult across Southeast Asia. Governments across the region can alleviate that by setting clear long-term policies and regulatory frameworks, the chief of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says. That would reduce overall costs, provide security to investors and reduce overall costs, according to IRENA, an inter-governmental agency. The major markets in southeast Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – saw $27 billion in investments in renewable power between 2006 and 2016. To reach regional goals of having nearly a quarter of all power generated from renewables by 2025, the region needs to invest $27 billion annually in coming years, IRENA says.

China, Canada team up on CCUS: Researchers in China and Canada are teaming up to develop technologies around carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). China’s Guangdong CCUS Centre will work with Canada’s CMC Research Institutes to research, develop and advance the commercialization of CCUS projects, the groups said. The goal is to find ways to reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions, which currently comprise about 46% of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, the groups say.

Singapore University launches three solar projects: The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) has launched three new research projects. One will work to develop a thin-film-on-silicon tandem solar cell that reaches 30% efficiency. Another will develop high-efficiency, low-cost PV panels that can be integrated into buildings, while the third project will develop a multi-purpose floating PV system. SERIS is part of the National University of Singapore and already operates the world’s largest “floating solar” test bed.

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