Last week, representation from the Ugandan Ministry of Energy, joined sustainable energy investors and developers EREN Renewable Energy (“EREN RE”) and Access Power to celebrate the start of East Africa’s largest solar project, based in Soroti, Uganda. They were joined by the European Union and Netherlands Ambassadors to Uganda, representatives from German and Dutch development banks KfW and FMO, and local dignitaries.
The 10 megawatt (MW), US$19 million solar photovoltaic plant is owned and operated by Access Uganda Solar Ltd, a partnership between EREN RE and Access Power. The plant is expected to be operational and connected to the national grid in July 2016, providing clean, low-carbon, sustainable electricity to 40,000 homes and businesses. It is also the largest privately-funded solar power plant in Sub-Saharan Africa, outside of South Africa.
Reda El Chaar, Executive Chairman of Access, commented: “Breaking ground today marks a major milestone for Access Power and its shareholder EREN RE, for Uganda and for the development of Africa. Only by working together can we effect real change and answer the urgent need for electrification of so many. Our company brings innovation, expertise and determination to every project we work on and we are particularly proud of Soroti and proud of everyone involved”.
Christophe Fleurence, Vice-President of Business Development – Africa of EREN RE, declared: “We are glad to launch the construction of the first project co-developed on the African continent with our partner Access Power, especially as part of such a promising and well-thought out scheme. The extensive political and international support to this project, unprecedented in Uganda and in the region, demonstrated again at the occasion of the ground breaking ceremony, underlines the broad willingness to shift boundaries in electricity generation. EREN RE which is a renewable energy investor and a long-term independent power producer, is determined to switch light on in many other places in Africa and emerging markets more generally, as efficiently as it was achieved at Soroti.”
Spain’s TSK Group has been awarded the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract and will sub-contract parts of the work to local firms. Local labour is being hired for the construction phase and the developers will also recruit and train engineers to operate the plant.
The project was financed by a mix of debt and equity with the senior debt facility being provided by FMO, the Netherlands development bank, and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF). The project reached financial close in record time, providing a successful and easily replicable case study of fast-track implementation of a renewable energy generation project conducted by private developers in Africa.
Today’s ceremony took place at the solar plant site in Soroti, 300 kilometres northeast of the Ugandan capital Kampala. It was attended by local community chiefs as well as national dignitaries and concluded with the symbolic breaking of soil and subsequent laying of the foundation stone, followed by closing speeches.
Following the opening address from Stephane Bontemps, Board Director, Access Power attendees were given a full update on the construction timeline of the plant. Next, guests heard from KfW bank regarding the GET FiT Facility, a dedicated support scheme for renewable energy projects. The Soroti project is the first solar power plant to be successfully developed under the GET FiT scheme, in partnership with the Government of Uganda through the country’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA). It is funded by the European Union Infrastructure Trust Fund, and supported by the governments of Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom.
H.E. Ambassador Kristian Schmidt, European Union Head of Delegation to Uganda said: “Uganda is a good place to invest in solar energy. The regulatory framework is conducive and Government rightly recognises Uganda’s energy future must be renewable. It is great that this is now triggering private sector interest in solar power generation. The European Union is proud that our Euro 8.7m grant contribution ensures the realisation of the Soroti Solar Plant, and I hope this is only just the beginning for many more to come.”
Kathrin Kästle, Senior Project Manager (Energy), KfW said; “KfW is very pleased to witness the launch of the first solar project under the GET FiT programme. We believe it will be an important addition to diversifying the energy mix in Uganda and creating more generation capacity in a very short time frame.”