Giant off-grid solar project to power three cities in DR Congo


U.K. government-backed electricity network company Gridworks, Madrid-based developer AEE Power, and Eranove, a French company active in the management of public services and in the production of electricity and drinking water in Africa, have secured three 22-year concession agreements from the Ministry of Hydraulic Resources and Electricity of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the deployment of a $100 million off-grid solar project.

“The agreements will see the consortium develop, build and operate three large-scale, solar-hybrid, off-grid utilities,” Gridworks said in a statement. The plants will supply power to three cities, Gemena, Bumba, and Isiro, which are located in the country's northern region and currently have no connection to the country's power network.

The consortium was selected as a preferred bidder in the frame of a tender held under the umbrella of the Essor Access to Energy (A2E) Initiative, which is a UK government-funded program launched in 2019 to supports the DRC Government's mini-grid auction and project preparation process.

“The initial investment for the three sites will be at least US$100 million, funded with a mixture of equity from the consortium, debt provided by development finance institutions (DFIs) and capital grants from donors and DFIs,” Gridworks further explained. “The consortium is in discussions for the provision of debt finance with both the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund and the African Development Bank (AfDB), and for the potential provision of grants with the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), the Rockefeller Foundation and the AfDB’s Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa.”

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The company expects to reach financial close for the three projects within 14 months. The plants are to be built by the Moyi Power joint venture and are expected to be completed within 18 months after the start of construction.

According to the latest figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency, DR Congo only had 20 MW of installed PV capacity at the end of 2020. The country has one of the lowest levels of access to electricity in the world, with only 9% of the population being supplied with power. This percentage in rural areas drops to as far as 1%. It has an installed capacity of just 2.67 GW, of which 2.54 GW comes from hydropower and 135 MW from thermal power.

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