Singapore's Equis Funds to invest US$500m in Japanese solar projects

Investment firm hopes to tap opportunities in the country's market for renewable energy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 12:57am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 12:57am

Alternative-energy investment firm Equis Funds plans to raise US$500 million over the next year to fund solar-energy projects in Japan where the use of renewable energy is expected to at least double over the next 15 years.

Equis had already collected funds from foreign investors keen to tap a rare opportunity to invest in Japanese infrastructure, a sector largely financed by domestic corporations, company partner Adam Ballin said on Wednesday.

The company also planned to seek funding from Japan's pension funds and retail investors, he said. Last month, it raised US$250 million to fund Japanese solar plant builder Nippon Renewable Energy.

"The Japanese market in the future could prove to be an important market because the country is undergoing what we call an energy revolution," Ballin said.

Renewable energy accounts for about 10 per cent of Japan's total energy mix and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has said it expects this share to increase to about 21 per cent by 2030.

The country was forecast this year to install the largest number of solar panels in the world after China, energy research firm IHS said, as the government tried to replace the nuclear power it shut off after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

A 2012 government policy that guarantees generous payments to companies selling renewable energy has also spurred the boom in solar demand.

China and Japan are expected to account for up to 45 per cent of the 40.8 gigawatts of solar panels that will be installed globally this year.

Singapore-based Equis, set up by former Macquarie Group executives, is one of the few foreign financial institutions investing in Japan's solar industry.

Goldman Sachs has set up a company to run solar plants in Japan and said it planned to invest about 50 billion yen (HK$3.8 billion) in renewable-energy projects over the next four years.

Several domestic firms like telecommunications conglomerate Softbank and energy trading houses are already financing renewable-energy projects.

Nippon Renewable Energy is building four solar-energy plants and has a further 26 planned. The total cost of the 30 plants, which would generate 600 megawatts, would be about US$1.8 billion, Ballin said.

The Equis Japan fund is co-led by asset manager Partners Group.