Delivering on our solar commitment

15th Nov 2018 | 2 Comments | By Mike Chilton

When I joined InfraCo Africa in 2013, Africa’s power landscape was dominated by coal, gas and diesel; solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, although much talked about, wasn’t yet operating at scale.

Today, analysts are forecasting that over 100GW of solar will be installed, globally, in 2018 alone. This rapid growth has driven technological developments that have, in turn, driven down costs. Coupled with Africa’s considerable solar potential (60,000,000 TWh/year), it is therefore no surprise that approximately 25% (320) of planned energy projects in Africa are solar PV projects. However, only 16 of these have reached financial close to date, and this is where InfraCo Africa comes in.

As part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), InfraCo Africa has strong government shareholders and funding base. In the past three years, we have committed over US$60m to developing 500MW of renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa’s more challenging markets, on grid and off. We have also allocated a further US$30m to two developers who will work on our behalf in the region. We prioritise projects that are innovative, pioneering new solutions or entering into a new market: half of our projects are in fragile countries and almost 60% are first of a kind.

We made our first investment into solar in 2008 as part of the multi-sector Kalangala Infrastructure Services (KIS) project in Uganda. KIS has since built a solar thermal mini-grid, backed up by batteries, and now delivers reliable power to over 3,000 customers on Bugala Island. Over the next two to three years, KIS intends to double this reach. We are now building on this success.

We can take commercial risks that others can’t and have the experience and ambition to get involved at the earliest stages of a project when fuel supply, regulatory frameworks and commercial viability may be unproven. Over the last three years, InfraCo Africa has committed US$18m to develop over 200MWac of solar. Our projects reflect the diversity of need across the region. In remote areas of Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia, we are pioneering replicable off-grid solar solutions which can transform lives and provide new economic opportunities. In Chad, Nigeria, Guinea and Malawi we are developing commercial-scale solar plants, often for the first time, to diversify each country’s energy mix and improve the availability of clean power.

Our projects are making tangible progress, developing from designs to bankable solutions. Earlier this year in Chad and Malawi, we signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with the respective Governments, bringing the integration of solar into their national grids one step closer. With our help, Standard Microgrid, an innovative solar micro-utility, also secured the funding it needed to scale up and deploy its unique solution across Zambia. Meanwhile in Malawi, we anticipate starting construction of the country’s first solar IPP later this year.

But we can’t stop here. The next frontier for solar is 24-hour power. We are now working closely with innovators in the sector to explore battery storage technologies and solutions which combine different renewable fuels to maximise efficiency. We also continue to pioneer access to off-grid solar solutions, drawing on our previous experience and adhering to rigorous health and safety, governance and environmental standards.

InfraCo Africa is committed to supporting global efforts to achieve access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy for all by 2030 (SDG7) and solar forms just part of our energy offering. As developers gather today in London for the AIX: Power and Renewables event, we will explore how we can work together to bring more renewable energy projects to fruition.

Mike Chilton

Mike Chilton joined InfraCo Africa’s Board in March 2018. Mike is also CFO for the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG). Mike joined PIDG from Cenkos Securities, a UK listed institutional stockbroker, where he was finance director. Prior to this Mike was the finance and risk director at NS&I, one of the UK’s largest retail savings organisations. He qualified as a chartered accountant with PwC and worked as a management consultant in its financial services practice. Mike then spent 10 years at Standard Chartered in a variety of roles, including CFO Africa Region and Group Head of Operational Risk. Mike is also vice-chairman for Sightsavers.

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