PROJECTS IN FOCUS
CLEAN ENERGY: NOW THAT’S A BRIGHT IDEA
To meet the energy needs of its growing population, Africa has to diversify its production and modernise its grids to cut power losses.
In Kenya, the EIB is investing €45.2 million in the Radiant and Eldosol solar plants, to be built in Eldoret, in the west of the country. These two separate plants are located on adjacent sites, and although they are being financed as private projects, the output will be fed into the national grid. With a combined capacity of 96 MW, it is estimated that Radiant and Eldosol will be able to power 303 000 homes when fully operational.
A similar project is also underway in Zambia, where the EIB is investing in another solar plant under the Scaling Solar programme, a World Bank initiative that is being managed by the International Finance Corporation. Scaling Solar pools resources to finance private solar projects in developing countries. The programme’s first project is in Zambia. The EIB is investing €10.1 million in the solar plant, which will be located in the industrial zone south of the capital, Lusaka. The plant will be able to power an estimated 15 000 homes.
It can be argued that off-grid solar kits are the best way to bridge Africa’s power gap. These kits can address shortfalls in grid supply and can act as a stopgap when power cuts occur. As the market for off-grid solutions develops, the products are becoming more sophisticated, allowing people to move away from kerosene lamps and diesel generators, which are unreliable, unsafe and polluting. The EIB has made €50 million of Impact Financing Envelope funds available for a number of off-grid solar energy providers to expand operations. The first transactions were signed in 2018, all with d.light. The company is active in the manufacture and distribution of off-grid solar kits in several countries, and the EIB had previously supported it indirectly through the Energy Access Ventures Fund. Each tranche of the operation is valued at around €4 million, and will support the company’s expansion in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. These operations will benefit millions of families and microenterprises in both urban and rural areas, not least thanks to the subscription payment model, which removes upfront costs for the customer and is making light and heat available to more low-income households.
The Gambia Renewable Energy programme combines both on-grid and off-grid solar power in an attempt to tackle emissions from fossil fuels and a chronic lack of access to electricity. Less than half of the country’s population is currently served. In rural areas, this figure drops below 10%. The four-part programme, which is co-financed by the World Bank and the European Union under the Africa Investment Platform, will benefit from a €57 million EIB loan. Installed generation capacity in Gambia will be increased thanks to a 20 MW solar plant, while around 430 kilometres of new power lines will help expand the grid and cut losses (in 2017, it was estimated that 22% of the energy in the Gambian grid was lost due to poor infrastructure). These lines will also help Gambia integrate more comprehensively with the regional power pool in West Africa.
Institutional support will be provided to ensure projects can be implemented with the required expertise. The final component of the project makes the programme even more innovative. The project will combine on and off-grid solar panels and batteries and provide power to 1 100 schools and health centres across the country, with a particular focus on rural areas. The new infrastructure will address blackouts, which frequently hit the national power system, and benefit people across the country.
Located at the waterfalls for which it is named, the Nachtigal hydropower plant in Cameroon will improve electricity access for about six million people, while bringing electricity to 1.4 million people previously unserved. The hydropower plant will generate about 420 MW of energy, which will be fed into the national grid through a new transmission line. The project will increase Cameroon’s installed generation capacity by 30%, but the country is a long way from reaching its potential hydropower output of 12 GW. The operation is structured as a public-private partnership between Electricité de France International, the International Finance Corporation and the Government of Cameroon. Financing is being provided by no less than ten Development Finance Institutions and four local commercial banks. The EIB is investing €50 million of IFE funds in the project, which has an estimated cost of €1.2 billion.
INTEGRATING POWER NETWORKS IN GUINEA AND MALI
Through the West African Power Pool, 14 countries are seeking to integrate their electricity networks to improve access to power.
The West African Power Pool (WAPP) is being rolled out in phases, and the Guinea-Mali electricity interconnector is the third section to receive EIB funding after the CLSG and OMVG interconnectors, signed in 2012 and 2015. CLSG connects Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, while OMVG (Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Gambie) will link Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. For Guinea, the project is strategically important. The country is not living up to its potential for hydropower generation. With an EIB loan of €130 million, the Guinea-Mali project will install 714 kilometres of 225kV transmission lines. As well as connecting Guinea with Mali, it will increase trade in electricity. The project will also bring electricity for the first time to some rural areas of Guinea, helping to reduce people’s reliance on diesel generators. In the coming years, a new 450 MW hydropower plant is set to come online in the country. The new infrastructure will help integrate this clean electricity with the existing grid.