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.”
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!