(Fixes typo in third to last paragraph)
By Gram Slattery
SANTIAGO, March 8 Atlas Renewable Energy, a
platform launched last week by English private equity fund
Actis, is on the hunt for solar assets across Latin America, but
big risks are off the table, Chief Executive Officer Carlos
Barrera told Reuters on Wednesday.
Actis, which already has significant investments in
renewables throughout the developing world, announced last
Wednesday it had established Atlas by committing $525 million to
acquire over 1,500 megawatts of solar projects across Latin
America from now-bankrupt SunEdison.
Atlas' bread and butter markets are Mexico, Uruguay, Chile,
and Brazil, and Barrera said in a phone interview the company
was looking at opportunities for expansion in a variety of other
nations, like Peru and Colombia.
But the projects would have to be low-risk, and merchant
solar parks, a kind of project that has emerged in recent years
in South America in which solar plants sell directly to public
transmission grids without any pre-existing purchase agreement
with a government or private actor, were a no-go.
"This new platform is very much looking for high-quality,
low-risk assets. The prospect of us investing in merchant is
very slim, so we didn't purchase any merchant," Barrera said.
In Chile, where Atlas will be based, the company purchased
SunEdison's Quilapilun solar park, a 110-megawatt project near
Santiago, the capital, which has a long-term power purchase
agreement with local distributors.
Across the region, Barrera said Uruguay has an attractive,
well-developed solar market, but sufficient power capacity in
the short-term means new construction may not be imminent.
Mexico also holds promise, with the biggest challenge being
"Mexico has had great success in regulated tenders for
renewables, and I think they will continue to do that. There's a
lot of macroeconomic noise over Trump, but I think it's largely
overstated," Barrera said, referring to U.S. President Donald
"Obviously the big challenge there is that...there are a lot
of competitors accepting different rates of return."
Colombia, though more of a frontier market for renewables,
has solid fundamentals and a less saturated energy market ripe
for solar development, Barrera said.
In Argentina, where conservative President Mauricio Macri is
enacting free-market reforms and the government recently held a
1.1 gigawatt renewable energy auction, Atlas is looking but is
not yet ready to leap.
"We're low-risk investors, so we need to make sure this
trend is sustained, and we'll probably look at it more over the
next two quarters." Barrera said. "But I think we're very
(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Leslie Adler)