Consortium wins bid to develop hybrid solar projects in DRC

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GRIDWORKS, a company set up to develop and invest in electricity networks across Africa, has welcomed the announcement that a consortium it is leading has been appointed as the preferred bidder for the Essor A2E Initiative (Essor) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Essor is an ambitious programme to build greenfield hybrid solar power generation and distribution projects in three cities in northern DRC (Gemena, Bumba and Isiro), each with a population of between 130,000 and 180,000.

According to a company statement, these cities currently have no grid connection, and struggle to access reliable, affordable and clean power.

Total capital requirements for the three sites will be around $100 million which will be funded with a mixture of investment from the consortium led by Gridworks, debt provided by lenders including development finance institutions and capital grants from donors.

Gridworks’ consortium includes Eranove, a multi-utility company that operates power generation plants and utilities in a number of countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon and Togo, and AEE Power, a power developer and construction company with extensive and long-term activities in DRC.   

This is an important initiative from the government of DRC in partnership with the UK Government. It provides a replicable model with the scale and regulatory underpinning necessary to attract commercial investment in green field utilities in Africa.

Projects like Essor operate using isolated local power grids which distribute power to homes and businesses from renewable sources such as solar and wind. They operate independently of the national grid.

Simon Hodson, Gridworks’ CEO, said: ‘This project will provide more reliable and affordable electricity in DRC, leading to economic growth and job creation, quality of life improvements and a cut in carbon emissions through the displacement of diesel generation. It will also bring power to hundreds of thousands of people who do not currently have an electricity connection.’

He added: ‘There is a serious lack of private sector capital allocated to DRC in general and to transmission & distribution infrastructure in particular, so we look forward to developing, investing and running the project alongside our consortium partners, AEE Power and Eranove, who have long experience of operating in African energy markets.’

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