The ownership structure at one of Canada's fastest-growing renewable energy companies has been shaken up and top management shuffled.
Calgary-based BluEarth Renewables Inc., which owns a portfolio of wind, solar and hydroelectric projects across the county, was jointly owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and an arm of ARC Financial Corp., along with a stake held by management. Now, Teachers has bought out ARC, leaving control of the company in the hands of one of the country's biggest pension managers.
At the same time, chief executive officer Kent Brown is stepping aside to take on a new position of "executive adviser," while chief operating officer Grant Arnold will take the top spot as president and CEO.
Mr. Brown said in an interview that the company has been in business for five years, and after that period, ARC, a private equity investor, wanted to get its money out. Teachers, on the other hand, has a longer investment horizon and a heightened focus on the renewables space.
"We have a great long-term shareholder going forward that will continue to support us in growing the business," he said.
Mr. Brown said his goal, when he started BluEarth, was to build the company to a point where someone else could take over. This seemed like a "nice inflection point" to hand the reins to Mr. Arnold, he said.
"It doesn't necessarily have to do with Teachers buying [a majority stake]," he said. "It really just had to do with where we are in the cycle of the business."
This expanded investment for Teachers is part of the pension plan's bigger push to invest in renewable energy at a time when global demand for green power is rising and the market is maturing. Costs of generating wind and solar energy have fallen in recent years amid improvements in technology, making it possible for investors to generate more power for less. As the asset class develops, there's also more assurances about performance expectations and maintenance requirements.
Last month, Teachers said it would partner with the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP) and Spanish lender Banco Santander SA in a renewable energy infrastructure initiative. They created London-based Cubico Sustainable Investments to hold and grow a portfolio of wind, solar and water infrastructure assets already worth more than $2-billion (U.S.).
One of Teachers new investment focuses has been on infrastructure in earlier stages, taking on more of the development processes in search of high returns.
BluEarth was formed in 2010 by Mr. Brown and two brothers, John and Ross Keating, who had previously run another renewable energy firm, Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. It was bought by energy giant TransAlta Corp., leaving the Keatings and Mr. Brown with a pile of money and a strong interest in building another green tech firm.
In the past five years, BluEarth has grown into a leader in the Canadian renewable power, Jane Rowe, senior vice-president at Teachers Private Capital (TPC), said in a statement. TPC took its initial stake in the company back in 2010 and said at the time that it would contribute $75-million in equity to fund renewable power opportunities.
Ms. Rowe added that quality power production projects would produce stable investment returns.
The Keatings and Mr. Brown will remain as directors of the company, and maintain their ownership stakes. John Keating will stay as chairman of the board.