Gridworks-led trio signs concessions for solar-hybrid project in DRC
Solar farm. Author: Juwi Renewable Energies Limited.
A consortium led by UK power infrastructure investor Gridworks signed three concession agreements with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to deliver the Essor Access to Energy (A2E) project, an initiative to bring solar-hybrid off-grid generation to three cities in the Central African nation.
Gridworks, which leads the group that includes pan-African multi-utility Eranove and Spanish Africa-focused power-sector EPC company AEE Power, announced on Thursday it signed 22-year concession agreements with DRC’s ministry of hydraulic resources and electricity. The agreement will support the creation of solar-based off-grid utilities that will supply power to the cities of Gemena, Bumba and Isiro, where grid connection is currently lacking.
The utilities are given the brand name Moyi Power. As explained by Gridworks, moyi means sun in Lingala, one of four national languages in DRC and the main language in the three cities.
Moyi Power expects to initially set up 14 MW of solar PV panels, 40 MWh of battery storage and 4 MW of diesel-fueled generation to connect consumers across the three sites in the first five years. The system would need to double in size every three to five years, Gridworks said.
The initial investment is estimated at at least USD-100-million (EUR 82.3m), which are to be funded with a mix of equity from the consortium, debt provided by development finance institutions (DFIs) and capital grants from donors and DFIs. The consortium is holding talks with the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund and the African Development Bank (AfDB) to secure debt finance, and with the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), The Rockefeller Foundation and the AfDB’s Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa to potentially obtain grants.
The consortium secured the Essor project in 2020 in an international tender process run by a unit of the ministry for hydraulic resources and electricity with support and funding from the UK government.
The trio will now work on project development and financing, a process that is expected to take at least 14 months. Once the financing and other contractual arrangements are in place, Moyi Power will start building the three power plants and associated distribution networks, which will take another 18 months.
The consortium expects the Essor project to power about half a million people in the country in which less than 10% of the population have access to reliable electricity, Gridworks said.
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