When it comes to solar opportunities, the African continent is blessed with an abundance of options: from large scale to residential projects, through mini-grids (MGs), solar home systems (SHS), commercial and industrial (C&I), on grid, off grid, and a whole array of solar applications related to water, refrigeration or cooking. This wide diversity of solar applications and markets makes Africa truly unique and attractive to solar professionals and entrepreneurs from around the globe.
But over the past 2 years, large scale solar projects had been lagging behind other segments. Indeed, the great development in the SHS and MG space caught the spotlight, with great success stories from PEG, BBOXX, Rensource and PowerGen to name a few.
At the same time, large scale projects have been facing several challenges in Africa. From a technical point of view, the poor quality of the grid (or simply its absence) has severely limited the potential for large scale projects in many African countries. But contractual considerations have also been a hurdle. Despite the emergence of standardized tender processes (e.g. IFC’s Scaling Solar) which reduce risk and fast-track development, many public and private players still opt for bi-lateral negotiations which often end up in failure and generate considerable loss of time for projects.
But the end of 2019 was different and has witnessed a great momentum for large scale projects! In just a few weeks time, several multi-MW plants were commissioned, 600 MW were awarded, 500+ MW of PPAs were signed and 966 MW made significant financial progress through obtaining development grants and/or reaching Financial Close. And this is not to mention all the projects being commissioned in Benban, Egypt!
Here is a brief summary of the most notable recent development for large scale projects in Africa:
- Mozambique 41MW Neoen reaches financial close
- Ethiopia 250MW ACWA signs 2 x 125MW PPA
- Malawi 46MW Phanes reaches financial close
- Morocco 800MW $50M grant for Noor Midelt I hybrid
- Tunisia 120MW AMEA awarded 100MWac
- Tunisia 360MW Scatec awarded 300MWac
- Tunisia 5MW ETAP-Eni commission 5MW plant
- Kenya 54MW Garissa plant commissioned
- Tunisia 120MW Engie awarded 100MWac
- Egypt 200MW AMEA signs PPA for 200MW
- Togo 50MW AMEA signs PPA for 50MW
- Togo 50MW AfDB finances $10.7M for 50MW
- Burundi 9MW $1M grant for 9MW hybrid project
- Gambia 20MW finance agreement ratified for 20MW
- Mali 33MW Scatec signs PPA for 33MWp
- Egypt 1,435MW 32 projects in Benban commissioned
2019 has been an exciting year for solar in Africa. And there is no doubt this great momentum and diversity of opportunities will continue growing in the coming years.