By Geert De Clercq
PARIS (Reuters) - The renewable energy unit of French state-owned utility EDF <EDF.PA> is in talks with Chinese companies about a possible partnership to build offshore wind parks in China, the company said.
EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy said last year the firm wants to nearly double its renewable energy capacity worldwide to more than 50 gigawatts by 2030 from about 28 GW.
EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDF EN) CEO Antoine Cahuzac told reporters on Tuesday that EDF will target areas with growing power needs like Latin America, China, India and sub-Saharan Africa.
It will also focus on offshore wind, a new and growing industry in which EDF is still a minor player for now.
"We've started discussions with some Chinese partners to see whether we will go into offshore wind in China," Cahuzac said.
He said that given high power demand and urban density in southern China, offshore wind would make sense there.
Cahuzac said EDF is the only European utility with a dedicated renewables unit in China following its July 2016 acquisition of UPC Asia Wind Management, which has over 1.3 GW under development, construction or operation in China.
Including that deal, EDF EN now operates more than 10 GW in installed wind capacity globally.
Compared to Dong Energy <DENERG.CO> of Denmark and Germany's E.ON <EONGn.DE>, EDF is a newcomer in offshore. It operates the small 62 MW Teesside park in Britain, has a 9 percent stake in Belgium's 325 MW C-Power park and this summer launched construction of the 100 MW Blyth park in Britain.
In 2012 it won a tender to build 1,500 MW on France's Atlantic coast, but due to red tape and legal recourse the turbines will not come online before 2021.
"We have the capacity to operate in the offshore wind industry," Cahuzac said. EDF will start close to home but wants to develop internationally and China is one of its targets.
Cahuzac said EDF EN is one of the world's top 10 wind developers and in the top five when excluding Chinese firms, who operate mainly domestically. He said EDF EN the top wind developer in North America in 2015.
EDF typically develops its own wind parks, then sells stakes to investors, keeping about 50-60 percent ownership.
He said its developments are mostly funded with project finance, unlike Italy's Enel <ENEI.MI>, which uses more corporate funds to finance its developments.
In recent years, EDF has spent 1.5-2 billion euros per year to develop renewables. Cahuzac said that EDF has a pipeline of about 12 gigawatt of projects in France, the United States, Latin America and other areas.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Ed Osmond/Ruth Pitchford)