* Global power, utilities transactions at $200 bln
* Renewables, cross-sector deals drive growth
By Nina Chestney
LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The value of global power and utilities transactions totalled $200 billion last year, a six-year high, as energy companies tried to find new growth opportunities amid low energy prices, a report by consultancy firm Ernst & Young said on Thursday.
The value of global deals last year was 13 percent higher than in 2014 and renewables investment accounted for half of the global deal value.
This shows investors are focused on adding wind and solar assets to their portfolios to comply with environmental regulations and also to reduce their exposure to increasingly volatile fossil fuel commodities, the report said.
Many utilities are looking for new ways to drive profits as their decades-old model of centralised, predictable energy production and consumption is pitted against falling power prices and reduced demand.
“With record low wholesale prices, shrinking financials and rising impairments, utilities are turning their focus to energy services and downstream supply businesses,” E&Y said in the report.
Britain’s largest utility Centrica, for example, decided to focus on energy supply and services, while German utility E.ON divested assets worth over $2 billion.
Deals between utilities and companies outside the energy sector also grew to $33 billion last year, E&Y said, without giving a figure for 2014.
“Electricity and gas mega-mergers in the U.S., telecommunications deals in Japan and tech-driven partnerships in Europe highlight the pursuit of innovative growth across the sector throughout 2015,” Matt Rennie, E&Y’s global power and utilities transactions leader said in a statement.
This year will be another robust year for power and utilities deals and many of these trends will continue, E&Y said.
Renewables investment will continue to grow following a landmark climate agreement in Paris last December which commits poor and rich nations to curb rapidly growing emissions.
Natural gas demand should rise amid falling wholesale prices.
Energy technology, such as battery storage, and a consumer trend towards grid independence, will set off a new wave of mergers and acquisitions, with technology firms and utilities forming partnerships to retain their roles in the value chain, the report said. (Editing by Susanna Twidale)