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Shell may buy majority stake in solar power firm Fourth Partner Energy

Shell is said to be looking to buy a ‘significant stake’ in Fourth Partner Energy, a rooftop solar power firm, and may even acquire it

New Delhi: Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the world’s second-biggest publicly traded oil company, plans to acquire a majority stake in Hyderabad-based rooftop solar firm Fourth Partner Energy, two people aware of the development said.

Shell is looking to buy a “significant stake” in Fourth Partner Energy, said one of the two people cited above, requesting anonymity. The second person said Shell is looking to acquire a majority in the firm.

Shell’s interest in Fourth Partner Energy comes amid the central government’s ambitious plans to set up 175 gigawatt (GW) of clean energy capacity by 2022. Of this, 40GW is to come from rooftop solar projects.

The Anglo-Dutch company runs a liquefied natural gas terminal at Hazira on India’s west coast and is the operator of the Panna-Mukta-Tapti fields, in a joint venture with state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp. and Reliance Industries Ltd. It is among the few foreign oil companies to have a fuel retail licence in the country.

Shell has been looking at the clean energy space in India for some time now.

Mint reported on 10 February last year about Shell’s interest in solar power producer Amplus Energy Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

In one of the largest overseas investments in the Indian rooftop solar space, Warburg Pincus agreed to invest as much as $100 million in CleanMax Solar in July last year.

In 2015, infrastructure investment manager I Squared Capital, announced its $150 million investment in Amplus Energy. While queries emailed to Fourth Partner Energy’s founders Saif Dhorajiwala and Vivek Subramanian remained unanswered, Aditya Gupta, senior manager, business development, at the firm in an emailed response said, “We regret that we do not have any news to share with you in this regard.”

“Shell does not comment on speculation,” a Shell India spokesperson said in an emailed response.

Some of the global oil companies interested in the Indian clean energy space as reported by Mint include Norway’s Statoil ASA, France’s Total SA and Russia’s OAO Rosneft.

In a move that may impact solar project developers, the Indian government is conducting an anti-dumping investigation on solar equipment imports from China, Taiwan and Malaysia.

The government is also considering levying a 70% provisional safeguard duty on imported solar panels and modules from China and Malaysia, as recommended by the directorate general of safeguards. A final decision is awaited.

India’s green power tariffs have remained near a record low. While solar power tariffs rose to Rs2.65 per kilowatt hour (kWh) at an auction conducted by the Gujarat government in September, last December’s auctions conducted by Solar Energy Corp. threw up winning bids of Rs2.47 and Rs2.48 per unit. This hasn’t dissuaded overseas firms including solar equipment makers from setting up base here.

China’s LONGi Green Energy Technology Co. Ltd, for example, said it plans to invest $309 million investment to set up a solar equipment manufacturing facility in Andhra Pradesh.

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