Germany's Aquila Capital plans to invest 50-70 million euros ($59-$82 million) per year in energy efficiency projects, it said, hoping to benefit from a push by corporations and governments to become carbon neutral.
Aquila, which oversees 11.1 billion euros, will invest in projects including LED lighting systems and photovoltaic systems to help industrial and commercial clients cut their energy bills.
Its first investment under the new strategy has been a deal to replace and operate street lighting in eight Italian municipalities, which is expected to cut energy consumption by 60-70%, Aquila said.
Europe's market for energy efficiency services is expected to nearly double to 50 billion euros by 2025, according to consultancy Roland Berger.
"In energy efficiency we have a win-win-win situation for the client, us and the service company in between. But for utilities it obviously means that less power is being sold," Aquila senior investment manager Franco Hauri added.
The typical size of projects is below 2-3 million euros, Hauri said, adding projects with corporate clients and public administrations could be as much as 40 million but were the exception.
"Corporations are no longer talking about shifting to a low-emissions world. Now it's about net zero and it's across industries and sectors," said Alex Betts, senior investment manager at Aquila.
Companies around the world have outlined plans to become carbon neutral by 2050 in line with the 2015 Paris agreement and investors are increasingly wary of heavy emitters.
Founded in 2001, over the past decade Aquila Capital has invested in 6.5 gigawatts worth of renewable energy projects and thousands of square metres of sustainable real estate space.
"As a theme, energy efficiency sits nicely between real estate and renewables," Betts said. "And now corporates are getting it." ($1 = 0.8537 euros)