AC Energy to invest $300M in Vietnam venture

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By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

AC Energy Holdings, Inc. expects the investments for its solar power venture in Vietnam to reach around $300 million as the Ayala-led company ramps up spending for power generation projects this year.

“[In] Vietnam, we’re hopeful that we’ll break ground on much more than 30 megawatts (MW) this year,” Eric T. Francia, who is also chief executive officer of AC Energy, told reporters on the sidelines of the Asia CEO Forum on energy issues at Manila Marriott Hotel in Pasay City on Wednesday.

Mr. Francia said the industry rule-of-thumb is a capital expenditure of around $1 million to build 1 MW of solar capacity. AC Energy had said the target capacity in Vietnam could increase by 300-MW more.

Ayala Corp.’s business arm in the energy sector previously disclosed an investment of 800 billion Vietnamese dong, or $35.21 million, for the initial 30 MW it plants to build this year. It has partnered with the Bim Group of Vietnam to jointly develop the solar power projects in Vietnam’s Ninh Thuan province.

“As long as we’re [breaking ground] in the first half, we’re okay,” he said about meeting its target 2018 commercial operation date for the initial phase.

The investment in Vietnam is part of the company’s capital expenditure budget this year, which will largely fund two big power projects in the Philippines — one in Luzon and another in Mindanao.

“I can’t give you an exact number but a lot of our capex [will go] to fund our ongoing coal plant construction — Mindanao and Dinginin. So it’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars range,” Mr. Francia said.

He was referring to the 668-MW GNPower Dinginin Ltd. Co., in which the company has a 50% stake; and the 552-MW GNPower Kauswagan Ltd. Co., which it controls with an 85% stake.

Mr. Francia said AC Energy closed 2017 with a total of 1,600 MW in attributable capacity or the megawatt-equivalent of its economic stake in various completed power projects.

AC Energy is one of the fastest growing regional energy platforms with development, operations and retail supply capabilities. Its parent firm has previously committed an investment of $1 billion to meet or even exceed its 2,000-MW target by 2020. It expects at least 1,000 MW of the projected capacity to come from renewable energy sources.

“We have identified sources of funding already for our next wave of growth,” Mr. Francia said.

Based on what is “visible” at present, the AC Energy official said the company would not exceed the 2,000-MW target this year.

“Maybe we can get to around 1,800 [MW] attributable [capacity by yearend]. Whether we can reach or exceed 2,000 [MW], that is still a question mark. We’re trying certainly, but we’re very close. We could be one or two years ahead,” Mr. Francia said. “Hopefully by next year, we’ll hit the 2,000.”