• 9/23/2017
    UK’s Quercus plans €500m solar power farm in Iran

    UK’s Quercus plans €500m solar power farm in Iran

    A UK company plans to build one of the world’s largest solar power farms in Iran, highlighting European investor enthusiasm for the country despite its renewed diplomatic tensions with the US.

    Quercus, a green investment company in London, said it had reached agreement with Iran’s energy ministry on plans for a 600-megawatt plant in central Iran that would rival the largest solar projects so far built in China, India and the US.

    Diego Biasi, Quercus chief executive, said the €500m deal showed Iran was “open for business” and represented a “huge opportunity” for investors in renewable energy.

    Iran has set a target to install 5 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity — equivalent to about five nuclear reactors — by 2020 as part of efforts to meet rising demand for electricity while cutting air pollution and carbon emissions.

    The country’s sunny climate makes it especially suited to solar power generation.

    Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the UK, said the deal with Quercus would support Tehran’s goal to become a “major hub of solar energy serving the region and beyond”.

    The falling cost of solar panels and wind turbines is making renewable power a more attractive option in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, accelerating the global shift away from fossil fuels.

    The Quercus investment was welcomed by Lord Lamont, the former UK chancellor and now trade envoy to Iran, who said it underlined “the importance of developing improved trading relations between the UK and Iran”.

    International relations with Iran have been thrown into uncertainty by the sceptical attitude of Donald Trump towards a historic nuclear deal in 2015 that led to the partial lifting of sanctions.

    The US president told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that the deal — designed to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons — was the “worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into”.

    Despite the diplomatic risks, Mr Biasi said Quercus had been “inundated” with requests from private and institutional investors to look for opportunities in Iran.

    “Since the lifting of international sanctions, Iran has made fast progress in creating a positive business and regulatory environment for global companies,” he said.

    The Quercus project would put Britain at the forefront of developing Iran’s renewable energy industry, Mr Biasi said, but UK investors risked falling behind in other sectors.

    “At Tehran's airport, you will see Italians, French, Germans, Swiss and Americans, all vying for a share of the Iranian pie,” he said. “If anything, Britain has been slow off the mark, but there’s still time to make up ground.”

    The Iranian project will be the first outside Europe for Quercus, which has invested more than €500m in about 40 renewable projects since its founding in 2010, many of them in the UK and Italy.

    Quercus will be responsible for building and operating the Iranian solar farm, with construction expected to take three years to complete.