Engie acquires 80% stake in battery maker Green Charge Networks


The deep pockets of the traditional fossil fuel utilities continue to identify investment opportunities in some of the renewable sector’s most promising companies, with French electricity utility Engie this week acquiring an 80% stake in Californian battery maker Green Charge Networks.

The move comes just a day after French oil giant Total shelled out $1.1 billion to purchase the shares of Saft, a specialist in lithium-ion battery technology.

Additional terms of the Engie deal were not disclosed by either company, but Green Charge Networks – which has offices in New York, San Diego and Santa Clara – is likely to reap the benefits of Engie’s backing, both financial and logistical.

Green Charge Networks currently has 48 MWh of battery storage projects either deployed or under construction at 150 sites in the U.S., predominately commercial and industrial (C&I) locations where the firm’s batteries and software are deployed to offer load management solutions to clients.

Engie has a large and expanding network of customers across North America, and has recently made moves to grow its renewable energy portfolio, including the signing this week of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Africa’s Eskom to develop 100 MW of concentrated solar power (CSP) capacity in the country.

The firm’s other acquisitions in the clean power sector include a recent investment Colorado-based Tendril, which specializes in cloud-based energy service management software, and OpTerra Energy Services, which provides energy and sustainability management services.

Storage, however, is increasingly viewed as a key to unlocking the potential of renewable energy in mature markets, and Engie chairman William Kriegel remarked that with this acquisition, Green Charge can be propelled forward "into the next stage of growth in the emerging global energy storage marketplace."

For Green Charge Networks’ CEO Vic Shao, the deal will allow the battery specialist to grow in California first and foremost, and expand across the U.S. and internationally. "Engie’s long-term financial and commercial support presents an opportunity to scale our business to a completely new level," Shao said.

Engie CEO and president of the North America business unit, Frank Demaille, added: "This acquisition will reinforce Engie’s strengths and skills in the activities of decentralized energy management, off-grid solutions, and power reliability."

Speaking to pv magazine on Monday following the Total-Saft deal, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) storage analyst Logan Goldie-Scot said: "For Saft, financing is the major rationale behind the deal. Total’s €21 billion balance sheet would strengthen Saft’s hand when bidding for larger grid storage contracts" – a strong position that Green Charge Networks will now also likely find itself in.