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East Africa’s largest US$19m solar plant opens in Soroti

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The Minister of State for Energy Simon D’Ujanga Simon, Minister of State for Energy, together with representatives of Access Power EREN RE and donors have inaugurated a US$19 million solar power plant in Soroti.

Comprising 32,680 photovoltaic panels, the new 10 megawatt facility is the country’s first grid-connected solar plant and will generate clean, low-carbon, sustainable electricity to 40,000 homes, schools and businesses in the area.

The project was developed under the Global Energy Transfer Feed in Tariff (‘GET FiT’) , a dedicated support scheme for renewable energy projects managed by Germany’s KfW Development Bank in partnership with Uganda’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA) and funded by the governments of Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union. The GET FiT programme helps renewable energy sources become more affordable and therefore more accessible in Eastern Africa.

The plant is in part funded by the European Union – Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund through the GET FiT Solar Facility equivalent to 8.7 million euros in the form of result-based premium payments per kWh of delivered electricity.

According to a release by the Africa Press Organisation (APO), the project is financed by a mix of debt and equity with the senior debt facility being provided by FMO, the Netherlands Development Bank, and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF).

The project, whose tender was launched in March 2014 and the procurement process managed by Germany’s KfW Development Bank,  is owned by Access Uganda Solar Ltd, a partnership between Access Power and EREN Renewable Energy. The tender was awarded to Access Uganda Solar Ltd in November 2014.

The partners involved in the Soroti solar power plant , the biggest of its kind in East Africa. Photos/courtesy of APO.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by ambassadors from the EU, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as key stakeholders from Access Power and EREN RE; TSK, the contractor who built the plant; FMO and Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) company; The Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) as financiers, and other key officials.

“Uganda is a good place to invest in solar energy. The regulatory framework is conducive and Government rightly recognises Uganda’s energy future must be renewable. It is great that this is now triggering private sector interest in solar power generation. The European Union is proud that our grant contribution ensures the realisation of the Soroti Solar Plant, and I hope this is only just the beginning for many more to come,” Ambassador Kristian Schmidt, the European Union Head of Delegation to Uganda said in his speech.

In his speech the ERA Chief Executive Officer Eng. Ziria Tibalwa noted, “that the Access Solar Uganda 10MW grid connected solar P.V project we are launching today is so far the largest in the East African region. We are so proud of this outcome of our stable and favorable regulatory environment that has produced such a leading project in the East African Region. We congratulate Access Solar and the people of Uganda upon this milestone.”

David Corchia, CEO, EREN RE, stated: “Soroti solar plant is an excellent textbook example of how collaboration among key local and international stakeholders can result in the successful execution and completion of such a ground breaking project and in tangible progress in the spread of renewable energy across Africa. We wish to express our gratitude and thanks to the organizations and individuals who made the construction of the largest solar power plant in East Africa possible. As a global renewable energy Independent Power Producer we take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the African power sector and we look forward to replicating this model in many other African countries in other districts in Uganda and across the region.”

Located on a 33 acre plot of land in Soroti District, the power plant has the potential to increase its net output capacity by a further 20MW of solar energy. At peak construction the plant had over 120 local workers involved, including engineers recruited and trained by Access Power and EREN RE.

 

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