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Energy storage tech company Fluence to become ‘unicorn’ with Qatar investment

A 30MW / 30MWh battery energy storage system at Ballarat substation in the Australian state of Victoria supplied by Fluence and commissioned in 2018. The company’s order book, average project size and range of solutions have all grown rapidly since then. Image: Fluence / Ausnet.

The sovereign wealth fund of Qatar has agreed to invest in energy storage solutions provider Fluence in a transaction that values the technology company at more than a billion dollars.

Qatar Investment Authority has committed to investing US$125 million in Fluence through a private placement transaction. Meanwhile, Fluence’s current joint owners, energy asset developer AES Corporation and engineering giant Siemens will maintain around 44% of the energy storage company’s stock following the transaction, which remains subject to closing conditions including regulatory approval.

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The valuation of stock at US$125 million for around 12% ownership of Fluence means that, as one source close to the company pointed out, the energy storage provider has become a ‘unicorn’ – aka a privately held startup worth a billion dollars or more, so-called because of the rarity of that phenomenon.

Fluence emailed with the announcement at the very end of 2020, with a press release signed off on by the respective head offices of AES in Arlington, Virginia (US), Siemens in Munich, Germany and Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) in Doha, Qatar.

Fluence will use the investment to “further accelerate development of its product offerings,” the company said, with a focus on digital products, while also using the funds to grow deployment of its existing products into “more markets globally”

The company had a big year in 2020, appointing new CEO Manuel Perez Dubuc in April and then launching the sixth generation of its energy storage solution product range in June, which it claimed is more modular and ‘stackable’ than ever before, allowing for easy and rapid deployment.

At the time of the launch, Fluence announced it had already received 800MW / 2,300MWh in orders from a range of customers including major project developers in the US and 500MW+ to an as-yet-undisclosed customer in Southeast Asia. Various projects already completed or under construction around the world were also revealed to be supplied by Fluence’s equipment and systems, including some of the first large-scale grid-connected battery storage projects in European territories such as Ireland, Switzerland and Belgium as well as supplying a 112MW / 560MWh battery storage project currently underway in Chile.

The company also completed the takeover late this year of US company Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS), a fellow energy storage industry pioneer which provides digital optimisation and energy market bidding software backed by artificial intelligence (AI) to energy storage and renewable energy assets. 

“We are proud to partner with Fluence, which is at the forefront of the global drive to provide energy storage solutions. We believe energy storage will play a key role in delivering cleaner, more sustainable and more resilient electric grids around the world,” QIA CEO Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud said.

“This investment further underpins our commitment to responsible investing for a low-carbon future.”

QIA was one of the six founding members of the One Planet Sovereign Wealth Fund Initiative in 2018, which calls for the building of “climate change considerations” into decision-making, to encourage companies to address climate issues to promote value creation and integrate climate change-related risks and opportunities into investment management.

With that membership having grown to 33 members with over US$30 trillion of assets – funds from France, Italy, Spain, India and five others announced their decision to join at the initiative’s most recent summit in November – QIA’s investment into Fluence sits alongside that growing focus on green technologies and climate change-tackling economic opportunities.

Commenting on the investment, AES CEO and president Andres Gluski and CEO of Siemens Smart Infrastructure Matthias Rebellius both spoke of the potential for growth in the energy storage market and the role of energy storage as a vital component of the transition to modern, low-carbon energy sources and infrastructure.

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