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Greek energy company Mytilineos SA entered the Canadian solar-energy market by closing the purchase of the first of five Alberta power projects owned by Westbridge Renewable Energy Corp WEB-X.

Westbridge received $47.6-milliion for its Georgetown Solar project in Vulcan County, representing 92 per cent of the total purchase price. Mytilineos had paid 3 per cent upon signing the deal earlier this year and will pay the 5-per-cent balance when the project starts commercial operations.

In a press release issued last May, Vancouver’s Westbridge said that Mytilineos will pay between $217-million and $346-million for the five projects, with the final price dependent on factors such as actual installed solar capacity; the number, if any, of battery storage units placed on the sites; and the value of the tax credits.

Once finished, the combined projects will have 1.4 gigawatts of capacity, enough to power 200,000 homes. The Greek company said that when the five Alberta solar farms are fully operational in 2026 or 2027, they will collectively form the biggest renewable energy project of its kind in Canada.

Westbridge said that Mytilineos is expected to close the purchase of the other four solar projects – Red Willow, Eastervale, Dolcy and Sunnynook – in 2024 and in 2025.

The Georgetown project closed the day after more than 100 countries at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai agreed to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, adding momentum to an already rushed building pace as they push toward their net-zero goals. The tripling, if fulfilled, would bring global renewable energy, mostly from solar and wind farms, to at least 11,000 gigawatts, which is more than 20 per cent higher than the latest projections from BloombergNEF.

The deal closed at a tense time for the Alberta renewable energy market. In August, the provincial government put all solar, wind, geothermal and biomass development approvals on hold, triggering a backlash from companies, investors, local governments and Indigenous communities.

The move drew the ire of developers who have questioned the stated reasons for the pause, which include addressing end-of-life decommissioning of the projects and studying how more renewables would affect arable farmland and grid reliability. No industry groups or companies affected by the freeze were consulted before the announcement.

Mytilineos is backed by Toronto’s Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. FFH-T, led by Prem Watsa, which first bought into the Greek company in 2012 and has since increased its ownership to 4.7 per cent, making it the second-biggest shareholder. Fairfax has an option to take its ownership to 6.4 per cent.

Mytilineos owns one of Europe’s biggest aluminum refineries, which it purchased from Canada’s Alcan (now Rio Tinto Alcan) in 2004. On the energy side, it operates natural gas-powered plants in Greece, trades gas and constructs renewable energy projects, with operations in more than 30 countries. Its share rose 85 per cent on the Athens Stock Exchange over the past year, giving the company a market value of €5.3-billion ($7.8-billion).

In an interview with The Globe and Mail in May, Evangelos Mytilineos, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, said, “This is our first investment in Canada. Business conditions in Canada in general are good, and we feel more comfortable there than in the United States. Canada feels more like Europe to us.”

In Alberta, fossil fuels account for almost 90 per cent of power generation, according to the Canada Energy Regulator. The province is under pressure to bring that share down as Ottawa strives to meet the net-zero emissions goal it passed into law by 2050.

Mr. Mytilineos said financial incentives played a key factor in commitment to the Alberta solar industry. The company can choose between five years of deferred taxes or a subsidy that will cover 30 per cent of capital expenditures.

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