Why West Africa is the newest hot spot for solar

Rapidly declining costs of solar equipment combined with the best irradiation levels on the planet means that PV is an ideal solution to Africa’s massive energy shortfall, at least in theory. Progress in Africa’s solar market has historically been hindered by lack of government support and poor bankability. Karim Megherbi, senior manager of Business Development at Dubai-based Access Power stopped by PV Tech to discuss why West Africa will materialise as the next hotspot for solar PV and how investors can take advantage of this.

PV Tech: Tells us a bit more about Access Power

Karim Megherbi: Access Power is based in Dubai and started activity in May 2012. We are a developer, operator and owner of power assets in emerging markets. We are currently developing renewable energy projects worth over US$1 billion in 20 countries across Africa and central Asia, with a strong focus on renewable energy and in particular, wind and solar.

Specifically we are quite active in Egypt in North Africa, and in Sub Saharan Africa. In late 2016, Access actually commissioned East Africa’s largest solar power plant, in Soroti, Uganda.

Why are Sub-Saharan Africa and West Africa such popular markets for solar PV?

At Access this has been our goal from the very beginning; to move in this market since the continent as a whole has abundant untapped renewable energy resources. Traditionally reliant on hydropower, the continent is increasingly turning to solar PV to bolster energy security and support rapid economic growth in a sustainable manner.

We have assembled a team that has a depth of experience in developing and building large portfolios of renewable energy projects across the Middle East and Europe and now we are focusing our strengths in places where these projects really matter; providing electricity to countries that really lack electricity.

You mentioned West Africa will be the top spot for IPP projects between now and 2020. Is that in reference to the energy demand?

We firmly believe that Africa’s power sector and wider economy can be transformed given that funding is readily available. However, funding on its own cannot have an impact without well-resourced and experienced developers willing to take early-stage development risk and have the ability to turn good concepts into bankable projects. As such, investment in the early stage development of power projects forms the cornerstone for the realization of Africa’s growth potential. And this is where we come in; we take the early-stage risk and we are able to transform concepts into bankable projects.

West Africa is a very dynamic region in terms of GDP growth so it’s all about economy and demand. It seemed that there was a huge pipeline of projects that was just waiting for the right economy conditions and also favourable environment in respect to policies etc. Now you have almost all these ingredients. So you have the first projects that went online in Senegal and in Ghana and a stream of projects in Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana as well, and the majority of these will be renewable energy projects…

Read the whole interview in PV Magazine.