Investors in solar energy eye sub-Saharan Africa

“The growth in the power sector in sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be somewhere between 60 and 80 gigawatts over the next ten years, and solar is going to form 10 to 15 percent of the overall increase in energy mix across sub-Saharan Africa,” Douglas Coleman, project director for Mere Power Nzema Limited, told Anadolu Agency.
The company is developing a 155MWP grid connected solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant in Ghana. The solar PV plant will consist of over 630,000 solar modules situated on 452 acres of land.
The plant, according to the company, will be the largest in Africa. It will cost approximately $350 million and is expected to begin electricity production in 2015.
“If the legal, regulatory and political frameworks are in place, there is certainly sufficient global capital with an appetite for investment in this sector in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Coleman.
Ghana is currently hosting a two-day Sub-Saharan Africa Solar Conference organized by independent business media company Magenta Global.
Investors from Germany, Canada, China and South Africa are attending the conference.
Representatives of the energy ministries and commissions of several sub-Saharan countries – including Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda and South Africa – are also taking part.
“Africa has one of the best solar resources globally and these must be taken advantage of because it is a fee-free stock,” said Jasandra Nyker, CEO of South Africa-based BioTherm Energy (Pty) Ltd.
“It is infinite and solar solutions are modular and easy to roll out. So, I do think there is an opportunity for us to take advantage of it,” Nyker added.
Germany-based Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) has been implementing a program that promotes the development of renewable energy pilot projects by German and Ghanaian business partners.
“In a bilateral program with the Government of Ghana, we are currently running it for 1.85 million euros, but a larger program of ours in Nigeria is in the range of 15 million euros,” Steffen Behrle, the GIZ team leader at conference, told AA.
Wisdom Ahiataku-Togobo, director of Gahanna Energy and the Petroleum Ministry’s renewable energy directorate, cited several challenges facing the East African country’s quest to go solar.
“The production of only 2.5 megawatts of solar energy covers 3.4 hectares and costs $3.99,” he told AA.
This, the official said, poses a challenge to agricultural farms because large tracts of land are needed to generate solar energy.
But that’s not a problem for Nigeria.
“Only 1 percent of Nigeria’s land mass can sustain solar power for Nigeria,” said Professor Lawrence I. N. Ezemonye, director of the Energy Commission at Nigeria’s National Center for Energy and Environment.
He said over 97,000 rural communities in Nigeria were without electricity, urging investors to support the West African country.
According to statistics from the FMO Entrepreneurial Development Bank, the Dutch development bank, sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing an energy crisis, with only 24 percent of the population having access to energy.