Iran Pushing for Foreign Finance in Energy Sector

Iran Pushing for Foreign Finance in Energy SectorIran Pushing for Foreign Finance in Energy Sector

Iran's energy sector is one of the world's biggest hotbeds for investment, as the country aims to rebuild its infrastructures after the lifting of nuclear sanctions against it in January.

Mohammad Hassan Habibollahzadeh, Iran's charge d'affaires to the UK, made the statement on the sidelines of the Growing Economies Energy Forum in London this week, Shana reported.

"Hundreds of projects are ready to take off in Iran's oil and gas, electricity, water, environment and even nuclear energy sectors," Habibollahzadeh said, describing post-sanctions Iran as a "once-in-a-century investment opportunity".

"You can't find these opportunities in any country all at once," he added.

The London forum was a convention of government representatives with leading energy investors and power developers that especially aimed to explore emerging energy markets such as Iran and Pakistan.

Iran is particularly banking on foreign investment and technology to add thousands of megawatts to its power generation capacity while upgrading its aging national electricity grid.

"Iran's installed electricity production capacity, which is currently at 75,000 MW, should reach 105,000 MW under the sixth five-year development plan (2016-21)," the official said.

It means Iran needs to bump up its power production capacity by more than 5,000 MW per year. But that comes at a price.

"Iran is keen to invest $50 billion in its electricity sector, including $35 billion in power production and $15 billion in transmission projects."

The structure of Iran's electricity industry suggests that future investments will be largely directed toward thermal plants.

Around 61,000 MW, or more than 80% of Iran's 74,000-MW output, are generated from thermal plants that burn fossil fuels to generate electricity. In addition, 12,000 MW come from hydroelectric plants and only 1,000 MW from nuclear power.

------- Renewables

Iran is taking small but important steps to prop up investment in its scant renewable energy infrastructure.

"Iran committed at Paris climate change conference last years to produce up to 7,500 MW from renewable sources, which requires at least $12 billion in investment," Habibollahzadeh said.

Over the past 10 years, the Renewable Energy Organization of Iran—an affiliate of the Energy Ministry—has green-lighted renewable projects with a total output of 5,000 MW, but so far, contracts for 700 MW have been finalized.

He added that the Middle East nation enjoys an average of 300 sunny days per year, which can translate into hundreds of megawatts of electric output.

"We have begun negotiations with some European companies, including a British firm … Thermal energy is one of the huge grounds for investment in Iran," he said.

The government has lined up a set of incentives to reassure foreign companies of a safe and profitable investment in Iran.

------- Gov't Backing

According to Habibollahzadeh, the Energy Ministry will buy the electric output of units financed by foreign investors for five years and also guarantee a steady supply of feedstock to these plants.

"All the basics, including permission for construction sites and environmental permits for investment in electricity projects, will be covered by the Energy Ministry," Habibollahzadeh told the forum.

Iran, the Middle East's second-largest economy, is planning to become an electricity hub in the region, but the country's power plants that are mostly past 40 years old need a major overhaul.

The country is planning to build several power plants with highly efficient combined heat and power system in its southern shores along the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman to boost electricity exchange with its Middle East neighbors.

"Most power exports are made to Iraq, followed by Turkey. There are great opportunities for investment to connect Iran's power grid with that of its neighbors for exports," Habibollahzadeh said.

Iran has held extensive talks with Europeans over its power projects after it reached a historic agreement with the six world powers last year.

Russia is poised to invest up to $10 billion in power deals that include the construction of a second nuclear plant and several thermal plants. Germany, which produces 90,000 MW from renewable energies, is also engaged in talks to promote renewables such as solar and wind.