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China's power-builders chase global renewable energy growth

From Vietnam to Poland, the nation's biggest players are competing to build renewable energy plants

China’s two major power contractors, PowerChina and China Energy Engineering Corp (CEEC), both scored landmark deals abroad in recent weeks, as the two infrastructure heavyweights put wind and other renewables on an international growth agenda up to now dominated by coal and hydropower

PowerChina International, a subsidiary of PowerChina, secured an EPC contract to build offshore wind farms totaling 172MW in Vietnam for developer Super Energy Corp. (SEC), in the first such nearshore wind deal for a Chinese company overseas.

Thailand-based SEC now controls six intertidal wind projects in Vietnam totalling 790MW capacity. The two projects to be built by PowerChina would be 30MW Suc Trang Phase 1 and 142MW Bac Lieu project, according to an SEC presentation seen by Recharge.

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Already the largest renewable power builder in Vietnam, the deal helps PowerChina to continue to cement its position in the Southeast Asian country with a diverse fleet of different power generation projects.

Days after PowerChina’s milestone deal, CEEC announced that its subsidiary Guangdong Power Engineering Corp (GPEC) has entered into an EPC contract to build a clutch of onshore wind projects near the Baltic Sea coast in northern Poland, totaling 324MW. In a separate statement to Chinese media, the firm said the deal was made between GPEC and a Polish company called MAX DEAL.

The contract marks CEEC’s first wind EPC in Poland and a further inroad into the eastern European wind market, following a previous agreement to build a 205MW wind project in Ukraine last year.

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PowerChina and CEEC are the two major energy construction conglomerates in China, ranked as 10th and 27th largest international contractors respectively by the 2018 Engineering News-Record (ENR 250).

The two have historically been most active in hydro, coal-fired power, and infrastructure construction projects, but “would be competing for a global renewable share in the coming years”, a source in PowerChina commented to Recharge.

Already a strong player in dozens of Asian and African wind markets, Sinohydro, a unit of PowerChina, last year secured a deal to build five wind projects totaling 355MW in Argentina, and won the EPC contract of the 250MW Syvash project developed by NBT in Ukraine, marking the firm’s entry into the “mid-to-high-end wind market”, a statement last year said.

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CEEC, similarly, looks for breakthroughs in central and eastern European wind markets, which the firm sees as “a critical step in the Belt & Road Initiative”, referring to China’s government-led global infrastructure policy, and a gateway to the European market.

Just two days after the wind deal inked for Poland, the firm scored another EPC contract for a 50MW solar-thermal project in Greece.

Last year, the two giant contractors saw robust growth of international contracts. PowerChina reported over 153bn yuan ($21.8bn) of new agreements secured from abroad with 30% year-on-year growth, and CEEC recorded 142bn yuan for a roughly 22% growth, according to company filings.

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