The birth of a new generation of solar projects

responsAbility at “Unlocking Solar Capital Africa”, Abidjan

The 8th “Unlocking Solar Capital Africa” conference was held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on 25-26 October, 2017.  The event aims to drive the adoption of solar energy sources on the continent by bringing together representatives from development banks, investment funds, solar developers and other solar stakeholders. This year, it featured a special initiative: The Phanes Group Solar Incubator, organized in partnership with responsAbility, among others, was asking for groundbreaking solar projects to be introduced to a jury of practitioners from different areas. Among them: Joseph Nganga, Executive Director, responsAbility Renewable Energy Holding.

Joseph, you were on the jury of the Solar Incubator awards. What type of projects were submitted?

We had  an interesting selection of projects including traditional grid linked projects and some captivating off take projects.

Was there anything truly innovative and different?

The nature of project finance renewable projects is that they shouldn’t be too innovative, otherwise the ability to finance them becomes a challenge. However, within the confines of the sector, the most innovative I would say was the Akouedo Solar Project in Cote d’Ivoire. What was fascinating about it was that it was rehabilitating an old dumpsite from the City of Abidjan and repurposing it for both biomass and solar power generation while providing alternative and significantly better income and quality of life to the families that had previously made an living from the dumpsite.

What is the greatest hurdle for these projects to be implemented?

The greatest hurdle across the board was the limited project development experience of the local developers. This is a clear illustration of why the Phanes Group Solar Incubator is so critical in helping to develop the skills and capabilities of local developers. The bottleneck in renewable energy projects on the continent is a lack of bankable projects. Working with local developers to enhance their skills to develop bankable projects is a significant step in unlocking that bottleneck.

How can investors drive the adoption of solar technology in Africa?

Investors are keen to invest in solar in Africa and there is certainly no shortage of funds. Investors could accelerate the adoption of solar by taking earlier stage development risk in projects where both  funds and expertise are scarce. responsAbility is extremely well positioned to support this acceleration as we invest in the earlier stages of project development and work closely with local developers through our in house technical team to augment their capabilities.

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