Company of the Month

August 2016: Mainstream Renewable Power

By Business & Finance
06 September 2016
Eddie O'Connor Mainstream
Eddie O’Connor, CEO, Mainstream Renewable Power

New investment and a series of Chilean contracts make this a time of growth for Eddie O’Connor’s energy company.

Airtricity is, by now, a very familiar name on Ireland’s energy scene. But when it was sold to SSE and E.ON in 2008, founder Eddie O’Connor went on to create another success story: Mainstream Renewable Power.

Along with Fintan Whelan, O’Connor and his team have delivered around 800MW of renewable energy projects, with 8,000MW or so in development. Along the way, they’ve handled projects for the South African government and Swedish furniture giant Ikea, and expansion has encompassed eight countries, five continents and a staff roster of over 140.

Those statistics are poised to increase, with the announcement of two key deals this summer. In July, the company closed its $117.5m investment deal with a Rockefeller Brothers Fund-led consortium of investors. Added to $60m of Mainstream’s own investment, the funds are earmarked to grow the Lekela Power platform, Mainstream’s joint venture with private equity firm Actis. It aims to construct over 1.3GW of capacity in Africa by 2018.

“The teaming up of the world’s leading independent renewable power developer with a foundation started by members of the family that effectively founded the global oil industry is a significant moment in the world’s transition to a new power system based on clean energy,” explained O’Connor.

“Providing electricity for the people of Africa requires huge investments and is an opportunity to rekindle growth and help the world economy overcome secular stagnation. We hope this will be the first investment of many from impact investors in this sector.” An additional four windfarms in South Africa, a windfarm and two solar facilities in Egypt, and windfarms for Senegal and Chile are now on the cards.

“Developing Africa’s power infrastructure, giving millions of people access to power and enabling the continent’s economic growth is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” said O’Connor. “Renewable energy is the quickest and most cost effective solution to achieve this and Mainstream is dedicated to being the leading vehicle in delivering this on the ground.”


Eddie O'Connor

Eddie O’Connor

A few weeks after the deal closed, Mainstream Renewable Power announced another huge project: it has won seven Chilean government contracts to build almost 1GW of windfarms. Total value: $1.65bn. The facilities are to come onstream in 2021.

… giving millions of people access to power and enabling the continent’s economic growth is one of the greatest challenges of our time

Mainstream first set up in Chile in 2009, and already has a 2GW portfolio, as well as several projects already in the pipeline. “Today’s win underpins Mainstream’s standing as the leading independent renewable energy company in high-growth emerging energy markets,” said O’Connor. “We had the industry foresight to take early positions in Chile and South Africa and we are rolling out similar plans across Africa, Central America and Asia. We look forward to developing these projects to the highest standard to deliver competitive priced energy into the Chilean system from 2021. I will be meeting with the CEOs of the main wind turbine manufacturers in the coming months to discuss the next generation of turbines required for these projects.

“In our young life as a company we have developed and won contracts for projects in the North Sea, Chile, South Africa, Egypt, Senegal, Ghana and the US. Our success is based on a set of values which marry entrepreneurial spirit with respect for local custom.”

With 12,000GWh of capacity tendered for, the project was significantly oversubscribed: Mainstream was one of 84 companies that tendered a total of 85,000GWh in infrastructure – another testament to the growth of an Irish, and global, success story. 

About the CEO

Dr Eddie O’Connor made his name as founder of Airtricity, building the company up to the point where it was sold a decade later for €1.8bn. He founded Mainstream that same year.

O’Connor was previously the innovative CEO of Bord na Móna, beginning the company’s move towards wind power.

An engineer and entrepreneur, he has received a string of business and academic plaudits throughout his career; earlier this year he was appointed the Global Wind Energy Council’s global ambassador.