NEoT Offgrid Africa (NOA) and Winch Energy Limited have invested c. US$12 million in mini-grid projects in Uganda and Sierra Leone, contributing to their global ambition to build the largest portfolio of mini-grids in Sub-Saharan Africa, and reach a portfolio worth US$100 million.
Thanks to this project, 49 villages in Sierra Leone and Uganda will be equipped with off-grid and remotely controllable solar solutions - Remote Power Units (RPU) - that will supply power to nearly 60,000 people. The RPUs will be designed and manufactured by Winch Energy through its assembly facility in Sicily, Italy. In a second phase, 6,000 portable batteries will be deployed in these villages to serve people who live too far from the power unit. At the same time, partnerships with telecom operators will be established to guarantee Internet access for households. For further information see the IDTechEx report on Distributed Generation: Off-Grid Zero-Emission kW-MW 2020-2040.
Installation of the project has already started with the RPU's for the first 13 villages shipped to Uganda. All 25 RPU's are expected to arrive in Uganda before the end of 2021. An additional 12 village power plants are also already operational in Sierra Leone and providing customers with clean energy. The Uganda sites are expected to be operational in early 2022, while all 24 sites in Sierra Leone will be operational by Q2 2022.
This project contributes directly to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations, including among others:
- Accessible and clean energy (SDG7) to villages which currently have a limited access to electricity mainly derived from fossil fuels;
- Climate Action (SDG13) by promoting power generation from solar energy and contributing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Decent work and economic growth (SDG8) by supporting local employment with at least 65 local permanent jobs created and many more during the construction phase.
- Poverty alleviation (SDG1), good health and well-bring (SDG3) and quality education (SDG4) through connecting businesses, schools and health centers to reliable and clean electricity
- Effective public-private and civil society partnerships (SDG17 "Partnerships for the goal") with the involvement of both Uganda and Sierra Leone governments, international agencies as well as private sector actors.
Winch Energy IPP Holdings Limited (WIPP), where NOA is the main shareholder, is the new investment platform for those projects. FMO, the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank, has arranged a syndicated facility where FMO (through the Access to Energy Fund) and the Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP) - managed by Camco Clean Energy (Camco) - will lend to WIPP a first tranche of c. US$ 4 million for the portfolio of mini grids in Uganda and Sierra Leone. A second tranche of up to US$ 6 million is also included in the facility to finance future projects since WIPP plans to expand its operations in Sierra Leone, Uganda and to other countries.
Huub Cornelissen, Energy Director of FMO said "Supporting renewable energy programs is key to FMO's strategy, as lack of access to energy is one of the biggest barriers to development. Mini-grids are seen as essential to increasing access to electricity and, as such, are becoming part of FMO's core strategic focus. Closing this first mini-grid debt transaction represents a major milestone for FMO and an important contribution to further develop the sector. The partnership with Winch Energy and NOA proves that mini-grids can be financed at scale and efficiently by creating a cross-country portfolio of assets. The addition of a facility for future projects allows for scale and provides the developers with an efficient funding source for the deployment of additional mini-grids."
Nicholas Wrigley, CEO of Winch Energy said: "We are obviously delighted to close this debt financing from FMO and REPP Camco, which represents a landmark for the off-grid industry in Africa and Worldwide. This first tranche represents the beginning of our investment programme with our partner NOA and additional investments will soon follow in Sierra Leone and Uganda and we are also targeting Nigeria and Ethiopia for 2022. The teams at Winch Energy and NOA have worked extraordinarily hard to bring about this innovative debt financing and for that I wish to thank them."
Geoff Sinclair, Managing Director of Camco, said: "Solar-powered mini-grids have a vital role in enabling countries in Africa to meet their climate action targets while providing affordable, reliable and sustainable energy access to underserved rural communities. As REPP's investment manager we are excited to be participating in both Sierra Leone's and Uganda's first large-scale mini-grid programmes, which will serve as a template for the wider roll out of mini-grids in the surrounding markets."
Philippe Ringenbach, CEO of NEoT Capital, President of NOA, said: "NOA is very proud to participate in this ambitious project alongside Winch Energy and two of the most active lenders in African offgrid market. This transaction reinforces NOA's position as a leading provider of innovative financing in the renewable energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has huge potential and an equally huge need for financing."
Source and top image: NEoT Offgrid Africa