pv magazine France spoke with Raphaël Colas, the director of the new French subsidiary of the international developer of solar projects, to discuss Lightsource bp’s strategy in France, its ambitions and the market segments he wants to target.
France’s solar potential is attracting more and more international investors. For example, it is the turn of the British group Lightsource bp, a solar specialist, to announce its establishment in France. The new subsidiary, headed by Raphaël Colas, is headquartered in Aix-en-Provence. “Lightsource bp has the ambition to develop 25 GW of solar energy projects by 2025,” recalls the director of Development France during an exclusive interview with pv magazine France† To do this, the company is looking for growth drivers and has identified several key markets in Europe, including France, which has made a firm commitment to develop 100 GW of photovoltaics by 2050. As such, the French market is still in its infancy and has enormous potential. Our site therefore wants to benefit from the experience that Lightsource bp has gained elsewhere in the world at an important moment for France”.
Born in 2017 from a 50/50 joint venture between solar power producer Lightsource and oil group bp, the company currently has an installed capacity of nearly 6 GW in 18 countries. In France, the aim is to reach a pipeline of solar energy projects (secure land and various stages of development) of 1 GW by 2026.
Already two industrial projects
For a matter of profitability and massification, Lightsource bp France will focus on ground power plants, preferably large-scale for the industrial and commercial sector, floating power plants and agrivoltaism all over France. “With bp’s experience and reputation, we have a real card to play with companies whose needs and particularities we fully understand,” assures Raphaël Colas. The subsidiary is already in contact with two manufacturers in the south of France, both at the Seveso site, who each want to build a photovoltaic power plant on the ground to recover the unused land around their factory. The first project would relate to approximately 40 MWp and the second to 25 to 30 MWp.
The company will also approach local authorities and respond to calls for expressions of interest (AMI). The so-called “360°” offer integrates all phases of a solar project: initial site selection, ground security for 30 years, obtaining permits, equity financing, construction (carried out by French installers) and operation and sale of electricity during the term of the project. Depending on the case, the PV plants will participate in CRE’s tenders or will be offered to French or international companies under Corporate PPA.
“Our strategy is divided into three action plans,” said Raphaël Colas, who was previously responsible for EPC sales and business development at Engie Solar. First of all, we want to do Greenfield, create value in the development of projects. We are also looking for partners, for example with smaller structures, who want to share the development risks or who need money. Finally, we are open to the acquisition of projects, under development or under development, to accelerate our growth”. But on the latter aspect, Lightsource bp is currently seeing an overvaluation of projects in France for sales and acquisitions, due to strong competition between players, which strongly reduces the financial margin.
About fifteen hires in 2022
In order to strengthen the development of greenfield projects, the French subsidiary will therefore hire about fifteen employees in 2022, namely regional managers, land seekers, design bureau engineers, network administrators, GIS specialists and project managers. After that, other recruitments are planned. To cover the French territory, two regional offices will open in 2022 in Lyon and Bordeaux, and two more agencies, in Poitiers and Amiens, could follow shortly. The development of the projects can also rely on the support functions of Lightsource bp’s international offices in London and Madrid.
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