French energy major EDF Group’s chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy said India is among the top 5 focus areas for the company but will stay away from investing in capital-intensive projects, especially in thermal power space. Lévy told Economic Times that his company is upbeat on India’s renewable energy plan and committed to spend $2 billion on the sector but finds it “frustrating” that the country is not doing anything to tap the huge hydropower potential. Edited excerpts…
What’s on the agenda for your business in India?
India is a fast growing economy which demands a state-ofthe-art solutions for its energy needs, which we offer. There are three major topics on my agenda — first to help optimise energy solutions to urbanise India. Second is renewable energy since nobody generates more power from renewables than we do and we have already set foot in India, both in solar and wind-based energy. The third is to bring nuclear energy and French-based technology into India. There is a consensus inside the current government as well as former government that nuclear energy is one of the solutions that we need for India because it is low carbon, and create jobs and bring technology to the country. India is one of the top five countries for us. The EDF Group is in pact with Nuclear Power Corporation of IndiaBSE 1.69 % to build a 10,000 MW plant at Jaitapur, a project which has faced challenges. What are the roadblocks now?
Nuclear projects are very complex; you need more time, need a lot of dialogue with stakeholders and very detailed industrial organisation, regulation and financing plan. This would be a key project for India as we aim to increase the level of skills here. It has India government’s willingness and French government’s support. The complexity by itself creates a long list of items that need to be resolved which takes time but there is no blocking issue. The reference plant for Jaitapur is being built in north western part of France and would be in operation by the end of next year. I’m confident that we will meet goals for construction of 6 EPRs in Jaitapur and 2017 could be the year of first concrete steps in this field.
You have committed to invest $2 billion on renewable energy in India. How is it developing? A lot of assets are on the block, are you looking at M&A opportunities? Soon we will reach about 500 MW installed capacity of solar and wind energy put together. We aim to reach a level of 2 GW in the next few years. Our teams are assessing and bidding in various states and we find that it is working well in some states like Gujarat. We want to be disciplined regarding financial risks and returns, so we are monitoring bids closely. We have looked at M&A offers but it may not fit our strategy. We take up projects from inception to the end.
EDF has explored the idea of entering the thermal power market earlier. Would you still consider it? It is a remarkable untapped market for two reasons — one, for the demand, and the second reason, for transition towards low carbon solutions. We are not going to play any other role in coal-based projects other than selling optimisation services and engineering services. We are not looking at developing any new project, only working for some projects which have finished in the last six to nine months and that’s all for us.