Insights & Numbers

by Danai Giannopoulou


Like last year, we have dedicated some time, as part of our preparations for the Solar Asset Management Europe conference, to creating an overview of Europe’s largest PV portfolios. With PV plants changing owner every week, the secondary market in Europe is still proving to be an exciting space to keep track of.

This year we have extended the overview to 70 portfolios. Focusing on the 10 largest portfolios in Europe, we can see that the largest portfolios are located in Germany and the UK. Compared to last year, the balance in this ‘top 10’ has tilted towards Germany, which is represented by five portfolios (Enerparc, Aquila Capital, Capital Stage, KGAL, and Wattner) totalling an impressive 2.2 GW. Next comes the UK, represented by three portfolios (Lightsource, Foresight Group, and Bluefield) with a total of 1.6 GW. France (EDF) and Italy (RTR) complete the ‘top 10’ with one portfolio each, of 576MW and 318MW respectively.


Top 10 European solar PV portfolios

# Name Size '15 (MWp) Size '14 (MWp) Role HQ
1 Lightsource Renewable Energy 942,7 608,4 Developer / Owner UK
2 Enerparc AG 749 700 IPP, Investor Germany
3 EDF Energies Nouvelles 575,6 656,5 Utility France
4 Aquila Capital 477,7 355,5 Investor Germany
5 Foresight Group 404,5 206 Investor, Fund, Asset Manager UK
6 Capital Stage AG 391,7 339,5 IPP, Investor Germany
7 KGAL 373 335,4 IPP, Investor Germany
8 RTR Energy 318 318 IPP Italy
9 Bluefield Solar Income Fund Ltd 262,5 158 Investor UK
10 Wattner 232,8 230,3 Owner / Developer Germany
 
 
 

“Vast majority of owners are investors or IPP.”

Analysing the companies owning the 70 portfolios in this overview, we note that four out of 10 (44%) classify themselves as investors. IPPs own 30% and only eight portfolios are owned by Utilities, or 11% of the total. Developers that also own their developed plants represent 14% of the overview.

“Larger portfolios seem to consist of more assets with lower capacity.”

Following last year’s trend, larger portfolios still do not automatically mean that the average plant size is higher; it just implies more plants in the portfolio. There are some interesting comparisons to make here. The average size of the 10 largest portfolios is 473 MW, over 3 times larger than the average of all 70 portfolios (137 MW). The average number of plants in a portfolio is 164 for the 10 largest portfolios, compared to 41 plants for all 70 portfolios. Interestingly, the average plant capacity for the 10 largest portfolios is 2.88 MW, while it is 3.32 MW for all the 70 portfolios. What is interesting to see is that, although the average portfolio size and the average number of plants within a portfolio has increased compared to 2014, the average plant capacity has decreased, meaning that portfolios might be growing larger, with more assets, but these assets are on average smaller.

 

“UK portfolios have the largest average size in terms of capacity and number of plants.”

Although Germany represents the highest number of portfolios in the European Top 10, when it comes to average portfolio size and number of plants, the UK takes the lead. We compared the averages of the 10 largest portfolios in each country, which results in the following ranking: UK comes first with 251 MW and 46 plants; Germany follows with 191 MW and 26 plants; France comes third with 135 MW and 36 plants; Italy fourth with 106 MW and 33 plants, and finally Spain with 64 MW and 11 plants.

 
 

“Asset management is increasingly done in-house.”

The trend of an in-house asset management strategy was already set last year, but this year’s numbers leave no space for doubt: 94% of the companies in the complete overview prefer to do the non-technical management of their assets in-house, while only 6% still outsource their asset management. Based on our numbers, the percentage of portfolios that perform asset management in-house has increased by nearly 20% comparing to 2014, a rather significant increase. Interestingly, this picture does not change even if we compare big portfolios (>100MW) and small portfolios (<100MW), as the trend is the same in both segments. It is possible that the increasing availability on the market of high-quality asset management platforms stimulates portfolio owners to take care of the non-technical management tasks in house. Another obvious element is the fact that, as the scale of portfolios increases, economy of scale makes it more attractive to dedicate people internally to these tasks, rather than allocating budget for a third-party service provider.


“O&M in-house strategy is becoming more popular – company type plays an important role in this choice.”

The general stats we received related to the O&M strategy of the portfolios were equally divided between in-house and outsourced O&M services; both strategies are followed by 35 portfolios. Dividing the portfolios into large and small ones provides a clearer overview. In both cases, the slight majority – 55% in large portfolios and 51% in small ones – prefer to outsource their O&M services.

We also observe an important increase in in-house O&M. In 2014, only 29% percent of the large portfolios and 22% of the small portfolios preferred to keep these services in-house, compared to respectively 45% and 49% this year. This trend is in line with the general notion that, as portfolios start to gain critical mass, they tend towards in-house O&M.

However, what is even more interesting is the distribution of O&M services depending on the type of company in question. Specifically, all of the utilities included in the Top 70 use in-house O&M services, as well as the vast majority of developers and owners, and the majority of the IPPs. On the other hand, the more finance-oriented companies such as investors prefer in their majority to outsource O&M. This is to be expected, since investors include firms that are generally not (yet) involved in Solar from a technical perspective. Onboarding the knowhow and experience to take care of O&M in-house could prove more costly than simply outsourcing it.

 
 

“European PV market has expanded compared to 2014; UK shows the largest increase, and France the largest decrease.”

In comparison to last year’s overview, the overall size of the 70 largest portfolios has increased, as has the total number of plants. More specifically, this year’s overview represents 9.56 GW, nearly 11.4% up compared to last year’s combined capacity of 8.58 GW. When looking at the number of total plants in this ‘top 70’, there is an even larger increase of 31,5%, from a total of 2208 plants to 2904.

Comparing the 10 largest portfolios of each country, only in the UK is there a significant increase, of 64%. This means that, based on our numbers, the 10 largest portfolios in the UK have grown on average by this percentage, reaching a total of 2.5 GW. This is due obviously to the large capacity added in the recent year in the UK, but also to the aggregation of assets into existing portfolios. Interestingly, the 10 largest portfolios in the other major European markets decreased on average. The portfolios in Germany show the smallest decrease, at 1.9%, and Spain the largest decrease in portfolio size, at 7.7%.

 
 

Since the above graph represents averages, we also took a look at individual portfolios. The tables below show the 10 portfolios that grew their portfolio most in the last year and the 10 portfolios that dropped most MWs from their portfolio.

 

Top 10 Increasing portfolios (absolute, MWp)

Top 10 fastest growing portfolios over the last year  (relative, %) 

# Name Size '15 (MWp) Size '14 (MWp) Change (MWp)
1 Lightsource Renewable Energy 942,7 608,4 334,3
2 Foresight Group 404,5 206 198,5
3 Aquila Capital 477,7 355,5 122,2
4 Bluefield Solar Income Fund Ltd 262,5 158 104,5
5 Solarig Group 101,8 31,7 70,1
6 The Renewables Infrastructure Group 119 62,5 56,5
7 Capital Stage AG 391,7 339,5 52,2
8 Enerparc AG 749 700 49
9 Primrose Solar 173,7 126,2 47,5
10 KGAL 373 335,4 37,6
# Name Size '15 (MWp) Size '14 (MWp) Change (%)
1 EAM Solar 27,5 6,6 317%
2 Solarig Group 101,8 31,7 221%
3 Nordic Solar Energy A/S 24,2 11,2 116%
4 Foresight Group 404,5 206 96%
5 The Renewables Infrastructure Group 119 62,5 90%
6 Bluefield Solar Income Fund Ltd 262,5 158 66%
7 Lightsource Renewable Energy 942,7 608,4 55%
8 Voigt & Collegen 102,2 71,4 43%
9 Hazel Capital LLP 111 80 39%
10 Primrose Solar 173,7 126,2 38%
 

Top 10 shrinking portfolios over the last year (absolute, MWp) 

Top 10 shrinking portfolios over the last year (relative, %) 

# Name Size '15 (MWp) Size '14 (MWp) Change (MWp)
1 DIF 75,2 171,1 -95,9
2 EDF Energies Nouvelles 575,6 656,5 -80,9
3 Low Carbon 177,3 198,9 -21,6
4 Akuo Energy 98,7 119,3 -20,6
5 Orka Power 18,2 29,8 -11,6
6 GE Energy Financial Services 20 31 -11
7 E.ON 56,7 61 -4,3
8 Contour Global 16,5 19 -2,5
9 Sunflower 43,4 45,5 -2,1
10 OPDE 48,1 48,6 -0,5
# Name Size '15 (MWp) Size '14 (MWp) Change (%)
1 DIF 75,2 171,1 -56%
2 Orka Power 18,2 29,8 -39%
3 GE Energy Financial Services 20 31 -35%
4 Akuo Energy 98,7 119,3 -17%
5 Contour Global 16,5 19 -13%
6 EDF Energies Nouvelles 575,6 656,5 -12%
7 Low Carbon 177,3 198,9 -11%
8 E.ON 56,7 61 -7%
9 Sunflower 43,4 45,5 -5%
10 OPDE 48,1 48,6 -1%

The European PV capacity continues to grow slowly (except from the UK), although we believe we are clearly in the transition phase from FiT-based markets to a more sustainable market based on LCOE of PV, PPAs and, in the near future, energy trading. It is interesting to see how operations, maintenance and asset management is evolving as the PV market starts to mature and the secondary market only gets more active. The topics and issues discussed in this article will be addressed by experts from all over Europe at the Solar Asset Management Europe conference taking place in Milan 20-21 October 2015.


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The "Top 70 overview of European solar PV portfolios" is provided by Solarplaza International BV ("Solarplaza") as a service to its customers on an "as-is, as-available" basis for informational purposes only. Solarplaza assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions in these materials. Solarplaza makes no commitment to update the information contained herein. The data used for this overview are as of May 31, 2015.

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