VALECO and its partners are inaugurating the Découverte solar power plant, the capacity of which can cover the electricity consumption of 6 000 households in the municipality of Decazeville-Aubin, in the Occitanie region. Financed by a consortium of commercial (Caisse d’Epargne CEPAC, Crédit Agricole du Languedoc and Unifergie-Crédit Agricole Group) and public banks (Bpifrance), this project has received equity contributions from VALECO and MIROVA and a guarantee from the European Investment Bank (EIB) under the Juncker Plan.

Erick Gay, Chairman of the VALECO Group, stated, “The finalisation of this innovative transaction enables the VALECO Group to demonstrate its ability to work with major players which are placing their trust in the group over the long term. It is a vital step for the VALECO Group which is doubling its installed wind power capacity in France over two years. It's a first step toward completion of our ambitious target to achieve a mature project portfolio of 1 000 MW, of which 400 MW are currently in an advanced stage of development."

Raphael Lance, Director of Renewable Energy Funds at MIROVA, commented on the operation: “MIROVA is proud of its investment in the Découverte solar power plant alongside its partner VALECO. This operation illustrates the successful long-term cooperation between this rapidly expanding family firm, institutional investors that are becoming increasingly involved in the financing of green energy through our funds and the European Investment Bank (EIB). This successful effort to mobilise savings and finance is necessary to achieve the energy transition goals that we have set for ourselves."

EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle welcomed this financial partnership - the first of its kind in Europe: “I am very pleased the EIB is announcing today this innovative partnership with VALECO and several banks to finance wind and photovoltaic power sites in France. The Découverte plant is a flagship project for our activities in support of an alternative energy source that is more compatible with the environment, generates jobs and stimulates the economy at the heart of a region. Thanks to the Juncker Plan, we are able to accelerate financing operations in the energy transition sector and for smaller-scale projects in keeping with our commitments under the Paris Agreement and the priorities of the French Government’s investment plan.

Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said: “Renewable energies are now competitive and sometimes cheaper than fossil fuels; their production employs over a million people in Europe, attracts more investment than many other sectors, and has reduced our fossil fuel imports bill by EUR 16bn a year. Efforts must now be stepped up as the EU works with its partners to take the leading position in the worldwide race toward a more sustainable and competitive economy. Today’s decision sends a strong and positive message as the United Nations Climate Change Conference draws to a close in Bonn: the energy transition is inconceivable without massive investment in renewable energies.”

Implemented by the VALECO Group in close collaboration with local stakeholders, the Découverte plant is the result of the pro-active approach to sustainable planning and development of the municipality of Decazeville-Aubin. Built on an abandoned mining site, historically rooted in the local landscape, the plant is an attractive and innovative solar energy production facility that will create jobs.

The Discovery solar plant occupies an 18 ha area covering around ten of the former Montet landfill sites and the former Lassalle and Bouyssonie open-cast coal mines. The regenerated site will contain 38 000 photovoltaic panels providing a total capacity of 12 MW and meeting the electricity needs of around 6 000 nearby households. The installation of 1 810 trackers across the site, which automatically steer the alignment of the photovoltaic panels according to the sun’s radius, ensures optimum power production. Particular attention was paid to respecting all aspects of the site’s environment - human, physical and landscape - in order to maintain natural areas, while protecting them from noise and visual pollution. By helping to reduce CO2 emissions by 13 340 tonnes a year, the Découverte plant is fully in line with the measures undertaken by the EIB, the commercial banks and Bpifrance to promote the energy and environmental transition.

Innovative financial structuring - a pioneering operation at EU level

For the first time in Europe, the innovative partnership set up between VALECO, the EIB under the Juncker Plan and the consortium of the commercial banks Caisse d’Epargne CEPAC, Crédit Agricole du Languedoc and Unifergie will mobilise EUR 220m of funding and guarantees. The objective of this partnership is to support the construction and operation of wind power and photovoltaic projects developed by VALECO in France with a total capacity of 185 MW, including the Découverte solar plant.

The EIB’s AAA credit rating combined with the EU guarantee under the Juncker Plan will provide the different projects with crucial European financial backing tailored to the renewable energy sector. The Bank is contributing on two levels: by directly financing the commercial banks, which pass on the financial advantage of EIB funds to each project, and by guaranteeing up to 50% of the risk of the funding provided by the commercial banks to the companies carrying out the different wind and photovoltaic projects. Bpifrance is completing the financing package alongside the private banks.