New solar in Africa can be established at a going rate of just nine U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour, according to investors at yesterday’s opening day of the Africa Energy Forum.
States should embark on a solar gold rush to secure global investment for independent power producer (IPP) led projects, said delegates at the event, which is being held in Lisbon this week.
Although schemes such as the Scaling Solar program run by World Bank private-sector arm the International Finance Corporation can lead to even lower tariffs, African states unwilling to participate in the initiative can still secure nine-cent solar using the IPP model, said delegates.
Burkina Faso energy minister Bachir Ismael Ouedraogo, raised the $0.09/kWh figure and told the forum his country’s fossil fuel electricity generation is expensive, at $0.20-0.25/kWh.
Faster pace required
Despite the falling cost of PV technology and rising interest from potential investors, the pace of solar development in Africa is slow, argued Andrew Herscowitz, coordinator of Power Africa, a U.S. initiative established by former president Barack Obama to widen access to electricity in the continent.
Often, added Herscowitz, African energy ministers encourage renewables projects only to realize fellow ministers have no idea about them or actively oppose their development.
He added, the diversity of cultures seen across the 54-nation continent also makes it vital to consider how locals conduct business.
Investors will not wait forever and will move on to other promising markets, such as India, unless African states work with them to bring projects to financial close in a timely manner, warned Herscowitz.
The Power Africa representative did not appear hopeful mini and microgrids would offer an alternative to IPP projects, mainly because such schemes are not yet commercially viable. Instead, Herscowitz argued, utility scale solar projects offer the way forward for African power development.
Governmental focus would be required, added Herscowitz, to designate development sites and bring in supportive policy to enable gigawatt-scale solar generation capacity pipelines to take shape in many African states over the next decade.