Finance for 49 mini-grids in Sierra Leone and Uganda


London-based off-grid utility company Winch Energy has closed financing for a $16 million project to install 49 mini-grids, plus portable batteries, in Sierra Leone and Uganda.

The company–which says it is owned by French renewables business Total Eren, Japanese conglomerate Itochu Corp, Saudi electrical manufacturer Al Gihaz Holding and U.K. financial services firm Winch Partners Ltd–said it will provide funding for the project alongside Neot Offgrid Africa and Nairobi and San Francisco-based impact investor Sunfunder, with the support of the U.K. and German governments and the EU. Neot Offgrid Africa was established by Paris-based investor Meridiam, French state-controlled energy company EDF and Japanese brand Mitsubishi.

The project will see the roll-out of Winch Energy's Remote Power Unit mini-grid solution in the districts of Tonkolili, Koinadugu and Bombali, in the West African state of Sierra Leone, and in the Lamwo area of Uganda, on the eastern side of the continent.


Winch said the projects would be operational within a year for more than 6,500 customers and would supply clean energy to more than 60,000 people for the first time, with an additional 6,000 portable batteries bringing sustainable energy to people outside the mini-grid catchment areas.

“The developments will open up a pipeline of additional projects in both countries, further securing Winch Energy’s position in the off-grid market,” the investor said in a press release issued yesterday to announce a project which, Winch added, was signed off in late January. The two project partners are aiming to have $100 million worth of operational projects within two years, said Winch.

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African debt-funding investor Sunfunder will provide a $2 million construction loan for the project, said Winch, with the U.K. government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office providing unspecified “subsidies” for the project in Sierra Leone, and German development ministry the BMZ (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung) providing the same support for the Ugandan locations, alongside the EU.

Project development support will be offered in Uganda by German development agency GIZ (the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) with the equivalent service offered in Sierra Leone by the UN Office for Project Services, according to yesterday's announcement.

Winch added, French broadband and smart grid company Sagemcom will be one of two main contractors–along with Winch Energy's Italian unit. Fieldfisher; Clarkson Wright and Jakes; and August Debouzy were legal advisers for the establishment of the Winch Energy IPP Holdings Limited investment platform set up with Neot Offgrid Africa to finance the mini-grid operations.

This article was amended on 18/02/21 to indicate London-based Winch Energy part owner Winch Partners Ltd is not to be confused with Swiss entity Winch Partners.

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