Pioneering renewables in Central America

Globeleq Mesoamerica Energy is the leading renewables platform in Central America, with an operating capacity footprint of 394MW. Based in San Jose, Costa Rica, its operations span wind and solar technologies across some of the most attractive power markets in the region.

GME commenced operations in 1996 with the construction of Latin America’s first utility-scale wind farm in Costa Rica. The company’s portfolio also included landmark projects such as Cerro de Hula in Honduras, the largest wind farm in Central America. The company also had a proprietary project pipeline of more than 400MW across the region at the time of acquisition by Actis.

The world-class asset portfolio features first-tier development finance institutions and project finance lenders, World Bank MIGA insurance, and 100 percent dollar-denominated cashflows, fully contracted to creditworthy offtakers.

CONTEXT

Central America exhibits solid fundamentals, which are driving the growing role of renewable energy. Demand growth – combined with reliance on high-cost technologies – means that wind and solar power are cost competitive against relatively expensive thermal generation. Over the past 10 years, the region has experienced solid annual electricity demand growth of 3 percent to 4 percent. This trend is expected to continue in the coming decade, driven by GDP growth and relatively low electrification (90 percent in Central America versus Latin America average of 99 percent).

The region’s high dependency on expensive thermal and seasonal hydro generation serves as a catalyst for governments to incentivise renewables. The lack of indigenous fossil fuels creates an expensive generation base, with heavy fuel oil and diesel-fired capacity representing more than 80 percent of total thermal capacity.

Wind and solar assets are competitive power sources – and have strong government and institutional support. The region possesses exceptional wind resources, with some of the world’s highest plant capacity factors as well as high-quality solar irradiation.

THE ACTIS APPROACH

Whilst striving to meet the high growth in Latin America, the dynamics of the power market shift in response to multiple factors including market reform, technological change, security of supply, affordability, and environmental and social considerations.

Actis believes that successful investments in Latin America’s energy sector require deep industry knowledge and experience to navigate this complex combination of factors.

Few investors in this space can compete with Actis’ energy track record, industry expertise, and local knowledge and relationships.

GME’s business plan reflected the success of Actis’s proven, replicable strategy of building power generation companies through aggregating individual assets to create a company of scale that will be attractive to strategic investors.

WHAT WE DID

Actis invested in GME in 2010, acquiring a 70 percent stake in the company, partnering with Central American private equity firm Mesoamerica. GME originally had just 24MW in operation. Over the next five years, Actis worked with the management team to bring the platform to scale, increasing its capacity by more than 16 times to 314MW in operation and construction, 80MW in late development and a proprietary pipeline of nearly 300MW in the region, creating the leading wind and solar business in Central America. At the time of exiting the business in 2016, GME was a fully integrated independent power producer that employed more than 180 people across three countries with solid development, construction and operational capabilities.

Actis’s sector insight and global relationships not only helped the company grow by developing and acquiring additional projects, it also drove the optimisation and de-risking of the platform. For example, Actis’s global relationships with turbine suppliers and contract negotiation experience drove $38 million of cost savings in the Cerro de Hula project, significantly enhancing project returns.

Actis’s global relationships with lenders and sector stakeholders resulted in further asset de-risking through the involvement of top-tier development finance institutions, the provision of sovereign guarantees and acquisition of MIGA insurance.

RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT

All Actis’s energy investments are either majority- or wholly-owned platforms. We are therefore able to ensure a Head of ESG is appointed at the platform level and to establish an ESG sub-committee to the board. We periodically host meetings for portfolio company ESG managers globally to share best practice and discuss commonalities.