Tanzania demonstrates Africa’s mini-grid opportunity

A mini-grid in DR Congo. Source: Givepower Foundation.

Solar Media, the publisher of PV Tech, has identified more than 50 potential mini-grid projects in Tanzania ahead of its Solar & Off-Grid Renewables Summit in Dar Es Salaam on 5-6 December.

The country has shown itself to be a leader in this particular market segment with global heavyweights such as Engie and E.On already very active via PowerCorner, Engie’s Ketumbeine project and Rafiki Power, a start-up sitting in the E.On incubator, :agile.

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Next month’s event will bring developers, tech firms, financiers and regulators together to discuss the opportunity available in Africa now for solar and off-grid renewables in general.

“We are delighted to be able to host Tanzania’s regulator, EWURA and TaTEDO which has been developing alternative energy in Tanzania since 1990. Both will outline their role in stimulating the market,” said Jo Wilkinson, the event’s director.

“The summit provides an essential meeting place for the industry to see where we are up to now. It will allow developers to meet with their funders, equipment providers to meet with buyers and the whole industry to chart a path towards identifying opportunities to improve access to clean energy,” she added.

Local developers such as home-grown company Ensol Tanzania Ltd. are also driving the market forward with the recent completion of a project in Mpale Village which connected 50 households in September and who are planning a further 250 households by June 2018.

Tanzania already has at least 109 operational mini-grids, with installed capacity of 157.7MW most of which are not yet green; around 46% are running on fossil fuels; 33% are biomass, 21% are hydro, 1% are solar and less than 1% are hybrid. The market is set to grow considerably in 2018 and beyond and will be attributable to government policy which is set up to encourage small power producers to do business in Tanzania.

With standardised protocols in place, the government’s framework for small power producers (SPPs) has outlined the role of an SPP, the PPA and the support mechanism available, which is tied to the US dollar.

Finance is one of the missing pieces of the puzzle but funds are in place to stimulate market growth and the major organisations involved in the early stages of the market have confirmed to attend the summit in December: DFID, TIB Development Bank, Investec, Camco, Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, OPIC, CrossBoundary, Swedfund, Finnfund, SunFunder and many more.

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