Burundi Signs Up for Solar Energy

Gigawatt Global, a leading solar and social development company and a partner of Power Africa and Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid sub-initiative, has signed two international grants for a solar energy project in Burundi, where only four percent of the population has residential access to electricity.

The proposed project, a 7.5 Megawatt (MW) solar field, will increase the country’s generation capacity by 15%. This follows on Gigawatt Global’s successful launch last month of East Africa’s largest utility-scale solar field, which added 6% to Rwanda’s electricity generation capacity and for which it was nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.

 The effort in Burundi is being supported by two grants totaling nearly $1 million, from Power Africa via the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the Energy and Environment Partnership (EEP), a coalition representing the British, Finnish, and Austrian governments.

Gigawatt Global plans to develop and manage a 7.5 MW solar PV field on a 15-hectare site in the Gitega region, 65 miles from the capital of Bujumbura. The facility will produce electricity needed for 60,000 households. The total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $20 million.

“Our impact investment model is to strengthen developing nations, both economically and environmentally, by providing renewable energy sources where they are most needed,” says Yosef Abramowitz, President of Gigawatt Global, an American-owned Dutch developer. “We plan to build 1,000 solar megawatts in Africa by 2020, thereby providing electricity to millions of households and institutions that are currently without the most basic of human needs.”

USTDA’s grant will fund a feasibility study that will address key technical and economic aspects of the solar project, conduct environmental and social impact assessments, and provide the necessary analysis for the project to secure financing. The grant funds awarded by EEP will be used for pre-development works and legal costs.

“USTDA is pleased to provide Gigawatt Global Burundi S.A. this grant for a feasibility study, which will utilize U.S. industry expertise to advance this important project,” said USTDA Director Leocadia I. Zak. “This activity supports Power Africa’s objectives of increasing access to power and promoting greater private investment in Africa’s energy sector.”

Currently, Burundi experiences a high frequency of blackouts, with downtime in electrical access an average of two days a week. Burundi has a total of only 52 MW of installed electrical capacity, including 15.5 MW of diesel-generated power.

“We are honored and pleased to be moving forward in partnership with Gigawatt Global – a tier 1 solar developer – to build the first utility-scale solar field in Burundi. We embrace the development of renewable energy as a means of increasing Burundi’s electrical generation capacity, thereby stimulating economic growth and providing a range of opportunities for the Burundian people,” said Hon. Come Manirakiza, Minister of Energy and Mines of Burundi.

The Government of Burundi has signed an MOU with GWG for the development of the project, which will positively impact the country’s development by creating full time project maintenance jobs, part time construction work, and jobs from support contracts with local businesses. Additionally, GWG is working with the Polytechnic University of Gitega, international NGO’s, and the local community to develop a Corporate Social Responsibility program to enhance knowledge transfer and support community development.

Gigawatt Global’s VP of Finance and Managing Director of the GWG Burundi project, Michael Fichtenberg, reports that “GWG has been working closely with the Burundian Government and is pleased with the progress made to date. The Burundi Government’s good will, with the close cooperation and support of the U.S. and Dutch Embassies, has been crucial in advancing the country’s first utility-scale solar energy generation facility that addresses the crippling energy crisis and will directly contribute to the economic growth and stability of Burundi. We believe that this pioneering solar project can be the bellwether for further western investment in Burundi.”

Gigawatt Global (GWG), a US-owned Dutch company, is the successful developer of an 8.5 MW field, located on the grounds of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village near Kigali, Rwanda, that reached interconnection in July 2014.