The project is a 7.5 MW solar PV plant in Mubuga, Burundi. The expected interconnection in Q3 2020 will increased the installed electricity capacity in Burundi by 14%. Partners include the UK’s Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP), Inspired Evolution, Africa Trade Insurance Agency (ATI), the U.S. Int'l Development Finance Corporation (DFC, formerly the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC), the Energy and Environment Partnership (a Finland, UK, Austrian fund) and the Belgian Investment Company for Developing countries (BIO), as well as the US AID's Power Africa initiative and others.
Commencement of Construction
Gigawatt Global’s 7.5MW solar plant in Burundi to become first grid-connected project supported by REPP to begin full construction
UK government-funded REPP set to continue support for country’s first private-sector grid-connected solar project with construction bridge loan
London, 23 January 2020: Gigawatt Global’s 7.5MW solar plant in Burundi is to become the first grid-connected project supported by the Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP) to begin full construction.
The project is also the first grid-connected solar development by an independent power producer (IPP) in Burundi. It is hoped the success of the venture will pave the way for further foreign investment into the country’s renewable energy sector by demonstrating the government’s increased capacity - and willingness - to enter into bankable power purchase arrangements.
Full construction works on the plant in Mubuga, in Gitega Province, is set to begin imminently after Notice to Proceed was issued earlier this week.
This marks a key milestone for REPP, which was set up in 2015 with funding from the UK’s International Climate Finance to help small and medium-scale renewable energy projects attract private and institutional investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
REPP has been supporting the project with development capital since December 2016, and has now committed to provide a construction bridge loan. The balance of the funding will be provided by a matching construction bridge loan and equity investment from Evolution II Fund, managed by Inspired Evolution Investment Management, and further equity funding by the project developer and co-sponsor, Gigawatt Global Coöperatief.
Upon or after the project’s commercial operations date, part of REPP’s construction bridge loan will be refinanced as a 10-year subordinated loan.
Geoff Sinclair, Managing Director of Camco Clean Energy, which manages REPP, said: “Today’s announcement is a landmark moment for Burundi’s energy sector - once built the solar plant will add nearly 15% to the generation capacity of its grid using clean energy. It’s also an important milestone for REPP, as this project is the first in its portfolio to begin full construction, having received funding support from REPP throughout its development and financial close process.
“With REPP’s support, the Mubuga project will have a substantial positive impact on the country and is a clear demonstration of the important role that the private sector has to play in boosting Africa’s electricity supply with affordable renewable energy.”
Michael Fichtenberg, Managing Director of Gigawatt Global Burundi SA and the lead project director, said: “Bringing clean energy to one of the world’s least developed countries fulfils Gigawatt Global’s mission to be a premier impact platform of choice for renewables in Africa. We believe this demonstrates how solar power can be implemented in other developing markets, while decreasing dependency on costly and polluting diesel generators.
“We are extremely pleased to be working with Inspired Evolution, REPP and our other financing partners, as well as our partners in the government of Burundi, in particular the Ministry of Energy.”
It is estimated that the plant, which follows Gigawatt Global’s first project in Rwanda, will be able to supply the electricity needs of around 87,600 people and businesses, and provide 300 part-time jobs during construction and support up to 50 permanent jobs during the operational phase.
Christopher Clarke, Managing Partner at Inspired Evolution, congratulated all parties involved in getting the project to this stage for their part in helping to realise a high development impact solar PV generation plant in Burundi.
“This is a pioneering project in many ways, both to open up the IPP market in Burundi and to crowd in funders and credit enhancement providers to realise a complex but important project for the country,” he added.
Information from the ground breaking ceremony for the project, January 18, 2017
Shovels hit the ground today in Mubuga (in Gitega province), 100 km outside the capital Bujumbura, to begin clearing the land for a 7.5 MW solar field that will add 15% to the East African country’s generation capacity. In a ceremony attended by government officials, international investors and the diplomatic community, Gigawatt Global, the leading frontier solar and social development enterprise, announced the $14 million pioneering project in one of the world’s least developed nation.
“Empowering economic and social development is at the heart of our green energy business,” said Michael Fichtenberg, VP for Finance and Business Development of Gigawatt Global. “This high impact development investment supported by leading international financial institutions signals that Burundi is open for development and business.”
This will be the largest private international investment in the power sector in Burundi in nearly 30 years, with the power being sold for 25 years to REGIDESO, the national electric company. "We are very excited at the groundbreaking of the Gigawatt Burundi solar field" said His Excellency Come Manirakiza, Burundi's Minister of Energy and Mines. “After their success in Rwanda, Gigawatt Global has proven it can be relied on to deliver efficient, clean renewable energy at reasonable cost, contributing greatly to our economy and society. We look forward to the speedy completion of this project, and are thankful for the collaboration and cooperation with Gigawatt Global as energy in Burundi is a clear priority." The full Statement from his excellency Come Manirakiza, issued ahead of the groundbreaking ceremony, can be found here.
Gigawatt Global, an American-owned Dutch developer, is a founding member of the White House Power Africa initiative and financed and developed the first commercial scale solar field in continental sub-Sahara Africa (outside of South Africa) in neighboring Rwanda in 2014. Gigawatt Global is also developing a solar based rural electrification mini-grid and solar street lighting pilot projects in Burundi, as well as additional opportunities for grid connected projects.
The project has been supported by a grant from the Energy and Environment Partnership (a Finland, UK, Austrian fund) and the Belgian Investment Company for Developing countries (BIO) to cover the relevant studies. The project is also supported by African-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme (RECP) and the Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP), currently engaging in project due diligence. The project is located on land leased from Eric Kira.
“This project is a great example of Burundians, Americans and other international partners working together for the economic development of Burundi” said Anne Casper, U.S. Ambassador to Burundi. "The success of this project will be a positive signal to other potential investors, who are watching Gigawatt Global and the Government of Burundi to see if investing in Burundi is stable, predictable and easy to do. We are working together very hard and very closely -- the U.S., Burundi, the Netherlands, and Gigawatt Global -- to make this project a success -- to enable the whole country to get energy and this will lead to the country's economic development."
U.S. Power Africa Coordinator Andrew Herscowitz underlined the importance of Gigawatt Global’s work by saying, “As a founding Power Africa partner, Gigawatt Global continues to demonstrate its industry leadership with this investment in Burundi.”
HE Hendrikes Verwein, the Dutch Ambassador to Burundi, said "The Kingdom of the Netherlands supports Gigawatt Global and commits to assist the company in the pursuit of its investments. The Kingdom of the Netherlands expresses its wish that the contractual commitments included in the agreement protocols for the construction of the solar plant in Mubuga be rapidly implemented."
“Gigawatt Global is expecting to deploy $1 billion in renewable energy projects in Africa as partners of the White House Power Africa initiative in the coming years as renewables are taking the lead in power generation in Africa and emerging markets” said CEO Josef Abramowitz. “We are targeting sub-Sahara Africa as a high impact and high growth market, with a portfolio of small, medium and large power projects in the highest priority development areas. Our unique quadruple bottom-line approach emphasizes investment grade projects, humanitarian impact, climate change mitigation, and economic & social development.”
In the nearby city of Gitega (Burundi’s second largest city), is the Polytechnic University of Gitega that has been a beneficiary of a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) center, donated by Mark Gelfand, a Boston-based Gigawatt Global investor who is active philanthropically in East African science education. The Company is working with the University’s engineering department to develop solar training for its graduates. The University’s Rector, Dr. Federick Nkurunziza said “The Polytechnic University of Gitega will benefit by field visits for students from the engineering department for practical internships and the University, with its professors and technicians, will be able to undertake maintenance tasks of the plant."
The construction and interconnection of the project to the national grid is expected to be concluded in Q4 of 2018.
Photo: VP of Finance Michael Fichtenberg and COO Weldon Turner signing a PPA with Burundian officials.