Roswall offers a number of services include consulting, strategic planning and design-build installations as well as development, financing and operations of renewables projects. Since its founding in 2018 it has developed, constructed and operated wind, solar and retrofit projects valued at about $150 million across North America.
In October 2021, Roswall was awarded the first independent retail electricity license in Nova Scotia.
“If you look at the statistics… we use most of our energy in the cities we live in. So far, the decarbonization of (these) communities has taken a lower priority than some of the other sectors,” said Christian Schmid, managing director and global head of infrastructure at Slate. “So it’s definitely something we need to tackle in order to meet our sustainability targets that we’ve set ourselves.”
According to UN Habitat, cities consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet they account for less than two per cent of the Earth’s surface.
“They clearly have big ambitions and therefore big investment needs, operating in a sub-sector that’s perfect for what we’re trying to do.”
Financial and other partnership details were not disclosed, with Schmid only calling it a “significant capital investment going forward.”
Slate, founded in 2005, is an alternative investment platform headquartered in Toronto, with offices in Montreal, Chicago New York and several European centres. As of the end of 2021, it held $10 billion in assets under management across 497 properties.
The Slate-Roswall partnership
The Slate-Roswell relationship began earlier this year when Slate’s asset manager in Halifax was introduced to Roswall after looking for companies that could help the firm decarbonize its footprint. According to Schmid, the partnership will allow Slate to support both sides of its business.
“On the one hand, the traditional turnkey business where we refurbish buildings and change the heating systems… and make buildings generally more energy efficient,” Schmid said. “On the other hand, developing green PPA (power purchase agreements) product that allows people like ourselves, for example, to contract green electricity for their electricity needs in Nova Scotia.”
Schmid joined Slate in February to head its Cities and Communities Impact Infrastructure Strategy. He arrived from Queensland Investment Corp., where he had been the sector lead for utilities.
Roswell is also active in Jamaica via an energy savings company it established for a pilot project in collaboration with the Jamaican government. The initiative is aimed at reducing electricity costs between 40 and 70 per cent in 30 secondary schools.
The Roswell and Slate partnership will largely be concentrated in Canada’s Atlantic provinces, Roswall’s main base of operations, although the firm has also completed some work in the northeastern U.S.
Schmid did not rule out the possibility of collaboration on Slate properties, but he stressed there are no formal discussions at this stage.
Slate’s other investments
Slate’s interest in Roswall is not its first major investment in the sustainability sector, although it is its first in Canada.
In May, Slate completed a $75.8 million investment into Eider VF Ltd. (EVF), a Birmingham, England-based vertical farming business. That investment will fund the construction of EVF’s first five facilities by 2024.
In July, it purchased a majority stake in German electric vehicle charging operator amperio GmbH. As part of that transaction it created Slate Mobility GmbH & Co. KG, an entity that will finance and own charging equipment for Slate and potential third parties while receiving management services from amperio. In the release at the time, Slate’s portfolio of over 225 grocery properties in Germany was mentioned as a potential future pipeline for the systems.
In August, Slate appointed Jeff Rodgers as managing director of North American infrastructure, based in Toronto, with the aim of building out its cities and communities strategy in Canada and the U.S. Previously, Rodgers served as the managing director at DIF Capital Partners.
Schmid said other potential acquisitions are at the discussion stage, saying to expect one or two transactions in the coming months.
“That certainly will not be the last investment in this sector. As I said, the fund itself that I’m looking at is focused on the sub-sector,” Schmid said. “We’re certainly keen to do more and invest more into the space to play an active role, and help people as well to achieve their own sustainability targets.”