72MW project to boost Cameroon’s growing PV pipeline

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The African Development Bank is to back a 72MW PV project in Cameroon, pushing the country's solar pipeline close to 200MW.

The AfDB’s Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa is to release a US$770,000 grant to JCM Greenquest Solar Corporation to develop plans for what would be the Central African country’s first independent power producer (IPP) renewable energy project.

Cameroon is targeting 75% electrification by 2030, up from the current 18% today. The country currently has only 1,400MW of installed power generation capacity, much of it coming from hydro.

In a statement on the grant, AfDB said the hope was that the project would provide a “strong signal” to other private sector players to invest in IPP project in Cameroon, helping it towards its 2030 goal.

“This support will be critical in delivering Cameroon’s first renewable energy IPP and its success will have significant demonstration effects in the country’s power sector and the continent at large,” said Alex Rugamba, director of the African Development Bank’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department.

The SEFA grant will enable JCM, a Canada-based private equity firm, to prepare environmental and social impact assessments for the project. The location of the project has not been disclosed, though a brief description on JCM's website says it will be connected to Cameroon's southern grid.

“We welcome the support of the AfDB as we work with the government of Cameroon to help them achieve their energy policy goals. As the first renewable energy IPP in the country, we believe this project will jump start the development of renewables in Cameroon and attract significant investment to the clean energy sector,” said Michael Strait, managing director of parent company JCM Capital’s development group.

Growing pipeline

Although Cameroon has a number of large-scale PV projects in the pipeline, none have yet reached completion.

Last year, energy developer, Joule Africa, signed a memorandum of understanding to develop 100MW of PV in the country, but no further developments have yet been revealed on this deal.

Meanwhile, a number of organisations are working jointly on another 21MW project in south-west Cameroon, the so-called ‘51 Villages’ project backed by the AfDB and World Bank and due to break ground shortly.

Cameroon is one of a growing number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa to announce early-stage PV power plant projects.

However, with some notable exceptions, relatively few of these have yet to be completed, owing to the persistent difficulties developers face in accessing finance.

Speaking to PV Tech earlier this month, Josefin Berg, a solar market analyst at IHS, said the cancellation of tentatively agreed projects had become a common pattern in some African countries.

“There are a lot of announcements in Africa of very big projects, and then a couple of memoranda of understanding, but nothing much beyond that,” Berg said. “There will be some countries where projects are installed, but it will be on an individual basis and not at a programme level or as a general trend. Any power project you want to pursue in the region is going to be quite a challenge.”

The opportunities for solar in both East and West Africa will be under discussion at two events to be hosted later this year by PV Tech's publisher, Solar Media. Solar & Off-Grid Renewables West Africa will be held in Accra, Ghana, on 21-22 April, while Solar Energy East Africa will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, on 10-11 March.

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