Remote communities with access to solar power
Securing affordable risk capital has been identified as a key challenge facing the wider mini-grid industry when seeking to prove new technologies or develop and construct large portfolios. By working together, and with strong support from government, InfraCo Africa and PowerGen hope to demonstrate a viable model for scaling access to solar mini-grids which could potentially be replicated elsewhere in the region.
In August 2019, InfraCo Africa signed a Shareholders’ Agreement (SHA) with PowerGen, committing US$6.9 million to develop the Sierra Leone Mini-Grid Project. As part of wider efforts by the Government of Sierra Leone to address limited rural electrification, the groundbreaking project will roll out clean solar power in up to 41 remote communities, delivering first-time access to electricity for homes and businesses.
Through a programme financed by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), PowerGen is now responsible for developing off-grid power solutions in two of Sierra Leone’s four geographic regions under a 20-year public-private partnership with the GoSL.
The project company, Off-grid Power, will develop a portfolio of solar mini-grids across the southern and eastern half of Sierra Leone. In December 2019, the project had connected 2,214 domestic and business customers across 15 sites.
With all finance now in place, it is anticipated that construction will commence on the Sierra Leone Mini-grid Project before the end of the year, with the project delivering clean power to remote communities and businesses in 2020.
The project plans to establish approximately 12,500 new connections, with around 85% allocated to households and 15% to micro, small and medium enterprises and public institutions such as schools and health clinics, it is anticipated that the initiative will generate employment and will have a significant positive impact upon living standards in rural Sierra Leone.
This investment is an important step and signal for investors that the sector is ready to scale. A capital injection of this size is exactly what is needed to begin moving PowerGen and the sector to a new level of investment and delivery