Thursday 14 November 2019

Bill McCabe backs Mullins' solar firm

The former Bord Gais boss is about to finish a €16m funding round

John Mullins Bord Gais Pic: Mark Condren
John Mullins Bord Gais Pic: Mark Condren 3/4/08
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Former Bord Gais chief executive John Mullins's solar energy business Amarenco has secured backing from e-learning pioneer Bill McCabe as part of a €16m funding round.

Documents filed with the Companies Registration Office show McCabe's Oyster group has invested €2.5m in the company, while Malta-based Xenmal Energy has invested €3m.

Mullins told the Sunday Independent that further investments will be made in the company to complete a €16m round. The money will be used to develop French assets.

On Friday the Irish Independent reported that Amarenco has been short-listed to buy French firm Fonroche in "a major transformational, multi-million euro deal".

The newspaper reported that Amarenco is in the running with France-based Voltalia to buy Roquefort-based Fonroche, which owns and manages solar energy plants in France, and has a number of large projects under development.

Energy industry journal Sparkspread said that both the firms have been asked by Rothschild to file revised bids next month.

Fonroche, which has been backed to the tune of €50m by investment firm Eurazeo, which also has investments in a range of companies, including Europcar, generated €200m in revenue last year. In February, Amarenco bought a solar farm in France for €7.2m and said it was close to finalising a deal for another valued at €6m.

It has solar farms in Avignon, Pissos, Varen, Brassemonte and Perpignan. It's also looking to develop projects in Ireland across the south and south-east of the country.

Recently Amarenco announced that the Sydney-headquartered Macquarie Bank was investing €180m to help it develop the Irish solar farms - the first in the country. The inaugural project is earmarked for Cork.

Much of Ireland's renewable electricity has to date been generated by wind. The previous Government set a target that 40pc of Irish electricity would come from renewables by 2020 as part of an effort to meet European energy targets, which Ireland is set to miss.

Dr Eimear Cotter, Head of Low Carbon Technologies at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), said that "solar energy has a role to play as part of a diverse renewable energy mix in Ireland".

"Solar electricity also has a potential role to play as it becomes mature and cost-effective. For installations using certified products installed by competent personnel, solar PV can perform reliably to provide viable contributions of renewable electricity across a range of scales of installation.

"Solar thermal, while increasing, is still a very small proportion of our renewables. This technology, in addition to biomass and geothermal, has been stimulated by SEAI grant schemes and the introduction of renewable energy requirements in the 2008 Building Regulations," she said.

"A well designed solar hot water system can provide 50pc-60pc of a home's annual hot water needs, depending on requirements."

Belfast-born McCabe is one of this country's most successful entrepreneurs. He floated e-learning company CBT on the ­Nasdaq and his Oyster group has taken stakes in companies like breast implant manufacturer GC Aesthetics and Data Hug. He has also invested in property through LNC Properties which has been active in Germany and the UK, and was ranked 84th on the Sunday Independent rich list for 2015.

Sunday Indo Business

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