Abengoa Tests Its Mettle In US Market

on October 24, 2013 at 2:00 PM
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Spanish technology firm Abengoa, which operates renewables projects worldwide, has listed its shares on the NASDAQ stock exchange as part of a push effort to raise its profile in the US.

Abengoa has singled out the US as a priority market, both for fundraising and for the ongoing growth of its business. “The US market has become the most important market for the company,” chief executive Manuel Sanchez Ortega told Breaking Energy. “Today it represents the top geography in terms of revenues. One-third of our business is in the US.”

The company is seeking to capitalize on the reputation it has built in the country through major projects such as its 280 megawatt Solana solar thermal facility and a 25 million gallon per year bioethanol facility in Hugoton, Kansas. “After more than 15 years working in the US on various projects, we have built a strong reputation and credibility through the work that we have done for our customers,” Ortega said.

“For a technology company, it is really key to perform in the most competitive market. If I’m good in Europe, I know I’m good. If I’m good in Latin America, I know I’m good. If I can be good in the US, it means that the company is really good. It enhances the credibility of the company,” said Ortega.

The US presents a welcoming market for a number of reasons, including the size and scope of its financial sector. Part of Abengoa’s strategy in listing in the US is to use the proceeds to reduce leverage and enhance its credit rating. That, along with the company’s track record, should help it to attract capital from a broader range of investors at lower cost. “Financing is a challenging activity everywhere these days,” said Ortega. “We haven’t dropped a single project because of not finding financing, but financing takes longer now than it used to.”

“People lending money today for projects are more cautious about analyzing everything in the project, and to a point, that’s good for us. Having our technology at commercial scale, having a track record of successful execution of almost $20 billion in projects over the last five years is something that financial institutions take into consideration when they consider new projects,” Ortega said.

The US also has a system of incentives that supports the growth of two of Abengoa’s major US products – solar thermal energy and cellulosic biofuels.

The state of California recently passed an energy storage mandate that Solana can meet without modification of the facility. “It’s great news, because the main difference of thermal solar energy is the capacity that you have to store that energy,” Ortega said. Solar thermal facilities allow for the storage of energy as heat, “so you can deliver the heat whenever you want to turn water to steam to produce electricity”.

And its Hugoton bioethanol plant, due onstream late this year or in early 2014, will be selling cellulosic biofuels into a market whose growth is all but guaranteed by rising volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard, though volumes were recently amended to reflect the actual rate of development of the cellulosic biofuel industry. “The RFS is setting a clear framework that is allowing people to scale investment,” Ortega said.

“A clear and stable framework, in which people are incentivized to invest in technology and innovation, over 5-10 years, is what investment requires. Because they know that there is going to be a market where they can get a return,” Ortega said.