Winch Energy secures $ 16 million for African solar mini-grids

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Based in london Winch Energy has secured $ 16 million in funding, through a new funding platform, for solar mini-grid projects in 49 villages in Uganda and Sierra Leone.

The deal represents the largest mini-grid financing portfolio ever, according to Winch, which is owned by Winch Partners, Total Eren, Al Gihaz Holding and ITOCHU Europe.

Winch

Courtesy of Winch

The funding comes from a new funding platform, Winch Energy IPP Holdings, which could reach $ 100 million over the next two years. The financing platform was created in partnership with NEoT Offgrid Africa.

NEoT Offgrid Africa is part of NEoT, a Paris-based finance company focused on off-grid energy and electric transmission that was created by Meridiam, Electricité de France (EDF) and Mitsubishi.

London-based SunFunder, which funds solar projects in areas where people do not have electricity, will provide an additional $ 2 million construction loan for the initial project, according to Winch. Two international development finance institutions have provisionally agreed to integrate debt into the project.

The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office provides grants for projects in Sierra Leone, and the German Development Ministry and the European Union fund Ugandan projects, according to Winch.

In addition, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, known as GIZ, supports Ugandan projects while the United Nations Office for Project Services supports efforts in Sierra Leone.

Mini-grids to reach 60,000 people

The mini-grids in Lamwo district in Uganda and in Tonkolili, Koinadugu and Bombali districts in Sierra Leone will use Winch’s remote power units, which range from 10 kW to 110 kW with 40 kWh to 384 kWh of storage. ‘energy.

Scheduled to be online within 12 months, the mini-grids will provide electricity for the first time to around 6,500 customers representing 60,000 people, according to Winch.

The project includes 6,000 portable batteries to provide electricity to people not directly connected to mini-grids.

Mini-grid communities will gain access to the Internet through partnerships with telecom operators in both countries, Winch said.

The company, which also operates in Benin, Mauritania and Angola, expects Winch IPP Holdings to help fund mini-grid projects in other African countries as well.

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The pipeline for Winch’s mini-grid project in Africa includes 200,000 new connections, which could provide electricity to 1.5 million people, according to the company.

“The financing needs for access to energy in Africa are enormous, but, most of the time, very difficult for private investors,” said Frédéric Pfister, director of NEoT Offgrid Africa.

The agreement positions NEoT Offgrid Africa as a key player in Africa for financing mini-grids and other off-grid solutions, such as solar home systems and commercial and industrial facilities, said Pfister.

Mini-grids are developing in Africa

Mini-grids are expected to play a key role in supplying electricity to the roughly 600 million Africans who lack electricity, but they are in an initial phase of “scaling up,” according to one. report published in mid-August by the Africa Minigrid Developers Association.

The trade group said in the report that mini-grid connections increased to 41,000 in 2019, up from less than 2,000 connections in 2016, mostly in East Africa. The average price per connection increased from $ 1,555 in 2014 to $ 733 in 2018.

However, the average mini-grid customer only uses 6.1 kWh per month, making it difficult to cover operating costs for residential consumers or the possibility of a return on their investment, the report warns.

A separate report released in June found that mini-grids could serve about half of the world’s people without electricity – about 111 million homes – by 2030 at a cost of $ 128 billion.

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