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SPIC's Mexican foray heralds commitment to add value and high-tech to power

State Power Investment Corp, one of China's top five power producers, expects its power generation capacity abroad to exceed 6 gigawatts by the year-end.

Through its Hong Kong-based unit China Power International Holding Ltd, SPIC completed its full acquisition of Zuma Energia, a Mexican independent renewable energy producer, in November for an undisclosed sum.

As much as 70 percent of its overseas business is now in clean energy and related fields like hydropower, wind power, photovoltaic and energy storage. These are spread over 46 countries and regions. And 37 of these economies are participating in the Belt and Road Initiative. Total installed power capacity under construction is around 1.62 GW, SPIC said.

At Zuma Energia, SPIC will focus on creating a regional sustainable development platform. The acquisition, the first direct investment by a Chinese power enterprise in the Mexican market as well as the biggest renewable energy acquisition project in Latin America this year, will also help increase SPIC's overseas green generation capacity, the company said.

Qian Zhimin, chairman of SPIC, said the investment in Zuma Energia signifies the company's continuous commitment to clean power generation. It also shows SPIC's confidence in the Mexican economy. The Zuma project will also offer operational and investment support to nearby countries, he said.

In Mexico, Zuma Energia now has two solar plants in Sonora and Chihuahua and two wind farms in Tamaulipas and Oaxaca, with a combined installed capacity of 818 megawatts.

SPIC is one of the three approved nuclear power plant operators in China with exclusive rights to develop CAP1400 nuclear technology. Based on the third-generation nuclear technology of AP1000, which was imported in 2007, the CAP1400 has made great technological advances over the last 13 years, on the back of dedicated efforts of more than 26,000 Chinese experts across 477 Chinese companies.

As much as 90 percent of the CAP1400's equipment is domestically made, and all of its key parts and materials are domestically designed and manufactured.

Adrian Katzew, chief executive officer of Zuma Energia, said he believes SPIC's support will allow the Mexican company to continue the mission of making a significant contribution to a global clean energy system.

SPIC's overseas expansion is consistent with the growing trend of Chinese energy companies buying Latin American assets across fields like logistics, services and telecommunications. State Grid Corporation of China, the world's largest power company by power generation capacity, said earlier it plans to buy a Chilean electricity network company for 2.57 billion euros ($3 billion).

Industry insiders said SPIC's ambition is likely to extend beyond Mexico with the Zuma deal, a long-term bet for the company, which will be able to meet its 2020 target of having 6 GW of overseas power generation capacity.

Wei Hanyang, a power market analyst at Bloomberg New Energy, said SPIC is bullish on Mexico. The Zuma deal is a brave and positive attempt to begin acquisitions in the region, and choosing renewable energy as the entry point is a wise move.

Wei said: "While Chinese investors have long been bullish on the Latin American market, Mexico is a new destination for State-owned energy giants and will likely entail big-ticket deals, if short-term uncertainties in the local macro and clean-energy market can be sorted out and properly managed."

According to Joseph Jacobelli, an independent energy analyst and executive vice-president for Asia business at Cenfura Ltd, Chinese companies' ability in cost control, and technology advancements especially in renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, will continue to provide companies with an advantage when bidding for projects abroad.

SPIC has been expanding its energy markets at home and abroad and foresees itself evolving into a world-class innovative and integrated energy group.

The Brazilian unit of SPIC has also announced plans to acquire a 33 percent stake in two plants in the largest power project fueled by super-chilled liquefied natural gas in Latin America, from Gas Natural Acu, a Brazilian joint venture between BP, Siemens and Prumo Logistica.

The plants will have 3 GW of total installed capacity-enough to supply energy for up to 14 million households, once GNA I and GNA II start operations in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

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