Energy challenges, future technologies and developing markets: a few of the topics energy experts gathered at the Clean Energy Summit: Africa last month to discuss. Held in Accra, Ghana on the 4th and 5th of April, the event brought international companies, local developers and governing bodies together to debate the shape and direction of Africa’s renewable energy landscape today. We spoke with ecoligo CEO, Martin Baart, to find out more.

Who attended the conference? What were the big ideas?

Bringing together energy insiders from around the globe, a key virtue of the Clean Energy Summit was the insight it gave into trends in the renewable energy industry, specifically in the West African market. Below is a brief overview of some of the most interesting, as well as the individuals who highlighted them:

  • A mismatch between project proposals and the expectations of finance providers results in low levels of successful proposals.
    • Karim Megherbi, Director Africa & Central Asia, Access Power
  • Third party projects often don’t succeed in becoming bankable, meaning that own project developments are taking priority.
  • Since 2014, there has been a large increase in the number of deals being made with Independent Power Providers (IPPs).
    • Richard Avery, Regional Manager of EleQtra’s West Africa division

What else was being discussed?

The large utility scale focus of many developers means that currently, as the development times are so long, few projects are being implemented. Throughout the conference, financing of projects was a big topic, with only a few projects in a financial close stage. This issue permeates the renewables industry in Africa and is a key focus of our work at ecoligo.

I spoke on the micro-grids panel at the conference, where we discussed how to support micro-grid developers. However, it was unfortunate that there was only one panel regarding micro-grids – with a lot of communities not being connected to the main grid in West Africa, this market is substantial.

Martin speaks on the mini/micro-grid panel
Martin speaks on the mini/micro-grid panel. Photo: © Joanne Duff

What are the main issues you see in the market right now?

Three key points came up often during the summit:

  • Quality of project developments needs to be improved by local as well as international players to ensure bankability and successful financing.
  • Project development times in utility scale projects are lengthy. To gain traction in the market faster, commercial & industrial (C&I) clients can be an attractive alternative.
  • More and more solutions based on power purchase agreements are being sought by the market in both utility scale and C&I segments.

Personally, I see education as key to overcoming some of these problems. Sharing knowledge of standards, best practices and available solutions is crucial to accelerating growth in all areas of the industry. And even more, it will help the customers to understand how solar solutions can be used for their business or industry.

Do you see Accra as a clean energy hub? Will it become one?

Accra is a major business hub and can become a centre for clean energy – especially as Ghana itself is an attractive market. I hope to see more events like this in the capital. An established regional hub can make a huge difference in terms of raising industry awareness, which is crucial to ensure that utilities, C&I customers and off-grid communities understand the energy solutions available.

To maximise the capabilities of sustainable power, we must achieve a broader understanding of what clean energy technology can deliver today. If Accra becomes a hub for sharing and expanding this knowledge, we could see a very positive change in West Africa’s renewable energy industry in the coming years.

Martin Baart spoke on the How is Access to Finance Changing? and Mini/Micro-Grids – Developers Active in the Market panels. Many thanks to Solar Media for hosting the event. 

ecoligo is a solar utility that provides low-cost solar energy to businesses in emerging markets. By financing the solar systems through a crowdinvesting platform, ecoligo closes the finance gap that prevents these projects from being realised. Investments on the ecoligo platform not only provide attractive returns, but save CO2 and support the local economy. Find out more at ecoligo.com.

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