Exclusive: RWE CFO maps out planned expansion in renewables, U.S. in focus

By Tom Käckenhoff, David French and Vera Eckert
FILE PHOTO: RWE CFO Markus Krebber attends the annual shareholders meeting of German power supplier RWE in Essen, Germany, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

By Tom Käckenhoff, David French and Vera Eckert

ESSEN, Germany (Reuters) - German utility RWE expects to spend heavily in the U.S. green energy market as it maps out its future as a global renewables champion after its pending asset swap with peer E.ON.

"We expect to spend several billions of euros on the expansion of the U.S. renewables business in the next few years," chief financial officer Markus Krebber told Reuters in an interview.

RWE is trying to shed its image as coal-heavy, closing many of its German plants in return for compensation that is yet to be negotiated, and has demonstrated the bulk of its future profits will come from renewables.

Krebber said its global spending would focus on onshore wind and photovoltaics (PV) in the United States and Europe, where offshore wind spending would be significant too, with PV also highly relevant in Australia.

By taking over the renewable energy assets of subsidiary Innogy and of E.ON within the sector carve-up, RWE will develop into Europe's third-biggest renewables company and the world's number five, with installed capacity of 10 gigawatts.

Globally, "we will invest more than 1.5 billion euros (per year), and this could be as much as 2.5 billion euros with partners' money", Krebber said.

RWE on Wednesday increased its credit line with a consortium of 27 international banks to 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) in order to fund the renewables business integration.

In the United States, it will inherit a 3 GW renewables portfolio from its two German peers and seek to expand that to 8 GW.

The main emphasis would be on onshore wind between the Great Lakes and down to the Gulf of Mexico, Krebber said.

RWE would develop and construct the assets itself, not invest in existing ones.

Investment conditions in U.S. renewables are attractive because prices for plants have come down, while remuneration for production will be lucrative even after federal tax credits expire.

Germany is more of a gamble because once feed-in tariffs go, projects must win long-term financing via auctions.

Krebber also said Asian renewables would lend themselves to investment either before 2025, or in the second half of the next decade.

"Offshore wind would be attractive in a densely populated country like Japan," he said, also mentioning South Korea and India.

The company expects to benefit from an expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Its trading division sees "significant" increases in volumes this year after 10 million tonnes were transacted in 2018.

RWE would also tap distributing capacities at a possible LNG terminal in Germany. Krebber expects final investment decisions for at least one, possibly two terminals this year.

"I appreciate we talked about renewables but also growth in gas," he said. "It will be decisive in transforming the company."



(Reporting by Tom Käckenhoff in Essen, David French in New York and Vera Eckert in Frankfurt; Editing by Georgina Prodhan, Michelle Martin and Dale Hudson)