As the country continues to grapple with electricity blackouts, Dubai-based solar developer Phanes Group says it has secured a $67 million (about K50 billion) funding for a 46-megawatts (MW) solar power park in Nkhotakota.
Meanwhile, initial site works have started in the district and construction of the first phase is expected to be complete by March 2020, according to a statement from Phanes Group dated December 20.
Developed by Phanes Group in collaboration with responsAbility Renewable Energy Holding and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the project is the result of the first Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed with Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) in February 2019.
In a statement, Phanes Group, which owns Phanes Energy Renewables Nkhotakota Limited, says the Nkhotakota solar project has reached financial close after attracting an investment volume totalling $67 million.
The Group’s chief executive officer Martin Haupts said lack of power has been a real obstacle to Malawi’s socioeconomic development.
“This project demonstrates that solar energy offers a viable path to bringing power to communities which need it most. We are thankful to our partners responsAbility and Opic, who have been instrumental in realising our aim of electrifying new markets in Africa.
“We hope the Nkhotakota project will serve as a model for future private investment into the local solar sector,” remarked Haupts.
ResponsAbility Renewable Energy Holding managing director Joseph Nganga said they are supporting the project to contribute to climate change mitigation and accelerate Malawi’s development.
He said: “Access to reliable and affordable electricity is a prerequisite for economic development. When power is out, organisations either shoulder high opportunity costs from lost output, or resort to much costlier back-up power, usually from diesel.”
Meanwhile, Opic vice-president for Structured Finance and Insurance Tracey Webb, whose organisation is contributing debt financing, said the project will help the most vulnerable populations.
“This project will empower underserved communities in some of Africa’s poorest regions through access to affordable, reliable, and diversified energy. Opic is proud to play a role in the growth of Malawi’s budding solar industry, which will advance our efforts to foster prosperity and stability in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Webb.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining spokesperson Sangwani Phiri welcomed the development, saying it brings hope to Malawi’s troubled energy sector.
He said: “We have for too long relied on hydropower, and its good that we are slowly diversifying. We are confident that once the project and others are completed, by 2021 we will be supplying electricity to more people than the current 11 percent and forget about the current woes.