Iran plans first tender to draw $12 billion renewable-energy investment

Iran is planning its first tender for utility-scale renewable-energy projects by year end as it begins a green power build out that could draw $12 billion of investment by the time it’s complete.

The nation wants to install 5 gigawatts of renewable energy in the next five years and an additional 2.5 gigawatts by 2030, Iran’s energy minister Hamid Chitchian said Thursday in an interview in London. The Persian Gulf nation, re-opened to investors following last year’s nuclear deal, has been courted by international green power investors at the same time it boosts oil production for export.

“We’re not going to use the money from oil in that sector at all,” Chitchian said. “All the investment will be done by the private sector, including local and foreign companies.”

At least 150 trade delegations from around the globe have visited Tehran in the six months since economic sanctions were dropped.

Tehran’s government is seeking commerce with countries and companies offering the best financial terms rather than prioritizing political and historical ties. The energy ministry is already in talks with some of the world’s largest renewable-energy players including Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Siemens Wind Power Ltd., Chitchian said.

Vestas’ chief sales officer, Juan Aratuce, said last month that Iran could be an important new market for wind energy. Automaker Iran Khodro Co. is negotiating with South Korea’s LG International Corp. to jointly develop electric vehicles.

“Foreign direct investment dried up during the sanctions but it is already starting to flow,” said Mohammad Hassan Habibollahzadeh, Iran’s charge d’affaires in UK “Many companies have signed agreements during the last few months. Electricity is considered to be one of the most important sectors.”

Most of Iran’s power plants are over 40 years old and need to be renovated and repowered, he said. The government is planning to invest a total of $50 billion in its electricity system in the next seven years.

Iran will tender 1 gigawatt of wind and as many as 3 gigawatts of solar, likely in several stages, Chitchian said. It is also seeking to build biomass and geothermal plants and swap natural gas for electricity with Armenia.

Iran may also add solar to its system of energy swaps, which before sanctions were lifted allowed the country to trade crude for refined products. Under a so-called “solar for service” program, developers and land owners would split cash flows generated from power sales.

Iran currently supplies 80 percent of its power from natural gas and wants to raise that figure to 90 percent by the end of next year.