Major Milestone Agreement Reached for Mega Solar in Southern Africa

Mega Solar infographic
Men washing solar PV panels.
Once operationalized, Mega Solar is expected to generate thousands of jobs. Photo Credit: Power Africa

MEGA SOLAR SIGNATORY / PARTNER QUOTES

African Development Bank

Kevin Kariuki, Vice President for Power, Energy, Climate & Green Growth

International Finance Corporation

Kevin Njiraini, Regional Director for Southern Africa and Nigeria.

The World Bank

Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, Country Director for Botswana, ESwatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa

STATEMENT FROM BOTSWANA

In an April 13 signing ceremony, Botswana’s Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology, and Energy Security (MMGE) Lefoko Moagi expressed optimism about the Mega Solar project, describing it as a quantum leap. Moagi noted that Botswana’s current energy consumption is approaching one gigawatt, so a project up to five times larger than current demand pushes the envelope. Moagi added that Botswana will go from an energy importer to exporting clean renewable solar power to the region through the southern Africa power pool. Moagi and Permanent Secretary Mmetla Masire both described the tangible excitement in the partnership between the United States, Botswana, and Namibia, and Moagi called for all parties to hit the ground running and get into the nitty gritty of operationalizing the project. Moagi added that he hoped the Botswana side of the project would produce employment from the construction phase onward, and that the electricity produced by Mega Solar would power Botswana’s future economic development. Masire thanked all signatories and the MMGE team for their efforts leading up to the signing ceremony.

STATEMENT FROM NAMIBIA

In an April 19 signing ceremony in Windhoek, Namibia’s Minister of Mines and Energy Tom Alweendo said that he was glad that Namibia and partners were finally signing the Mega Solar Memorandum of Intent (MoI) after two years of negotiation. He highlighted that both Namibia and Botswana need more locally generated power, adding that Namibia’s development roadmap, the Harambee Prosperity Plan II, emphasizes the need for clean power generation. Alweendo said that Namibia is focused on increasing its power generation capacity in the next few years, including through other renewable energy projects with independent power producers. Alweendo said he hopes implementing the Mega Solar project will be swift, as it can help Namibia realize its power generation goals and will be complementary to the other power projects Namibia is pursuing.

MEGA SOLAR — FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION (FAQ)

1. What is the Mega Solar Initiative (“Mega Solar”)?

Mega-solar projects — large-scale installations capable of producing upwards of thousands of megawatts (MW) of power — are generating much-needed electricity in countries all over the world. Power Africa’s Mega Solar initiative is a multi-donor collaboration which seeks to accelerate the procurement of 2–5 gigawatts (GW) of solar power in Southern Africa over the next two decades.

2. What countries are targeted for solar project development?

To date, Power Africa has targeted Namibia and Botswana for the development of utility-scale solar projects to substitute imported carbon-intensive electricity with clean, reliable and affordable power from utility-scale solar facilities. Through the Southern African Power Pool, excess power from the Mega Solar project can be exported across the region to support grid reliability, improve climate resilience in the power sector and reduce regional dependence on coal-fired power plants.

3. What type of solar technologies are involved?

Mega Solar focuses exclusively on utility-scale Solar photovoltaic (PV) installations and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies.

4. Which donors are involved in Mega Solar?

Mega Solar’s coordination is led by the U.S Agency for International Development (Power Africa) which has signed a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) for Large-Scale Solar Development in Southern Africa with its partners that include the following: Government of the Republic of Botswana, Government of the Republic of Namibia, African Development Bank, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and International Finance Corporation. Going forward, other partners are expected to support the Mega Solar effort, beyond the initial signatories of the MOI.

5. Who sets Mega Solar Priorities?

The priorities for Mega Solar are decided upon at the country-level and set by each the Government of the Republic of Namibia and the Government of the Republic of Botswana. Collaborating partners of the Mega Solar MOI and other donors intend to provide technical assistance and other resources to support the governments in achieving their individual priorities for large-scale solar procurements.

6. Do Namibia and Botswana have demand for 2–5 GW of Solar Power?

No, the first phase of Mega Solar will focus on the procurement of 300–500 MW for local demand in the focal countries. Subsequent procurements are anticipated for projects slated for energy export.

7. Where are the project sites located in Namibia and Botswana?

Multiple potential sites have been identified for development; however, the selection of actual project sites has not been finalized.

8. Why Namibia and Botswana?

Simply put, abundant sunlight. Botswana and Namibia offer the potential to capture around 10 hours of strong sunlight per day for 300 days per year and have some of the highest solar irradiance potential of any country in Africa, which translates to highly productive concentrated solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV) installations.

9a. How can the focal countries expect to benefit?

Large-scale solar developments will ultimately help Namibia and Botswana diversify their energy mix, while simultaneously providing low-cost, reliable power generation for local consumption and potential export. Other potential benefits include reduced dependence on energy imports, local economic development and job creation stemming from construction and operation services, local content and project ownership.

9b. How can the Southern Africa region benefit?

Through the Southern African Power Pool, excess power from the Mega Solar project can be exported across the region to support grid reliability, improve climate resilience in the power sector and reduce regional dependence on coal-fired power plants.

10. What is the role of the private sector?

Early stage of Mega Solar will focus on providing support to governments to launch competitive procurements. It is envisioned that there will be opportunities for IPPs, subject to decisions of the governments of Namibia and Botswana.

11. What is the expected timing for the first RFP?

The timing of the first RFP is TBD.

12. Why has Mega Solar not happened sooner?

A historic lack of public-private partnerships outside of South Africa to develop such projects has left much of the region’s vast solar power potential largely untapped. Perception of solar as cost prohibitive was also a factor. The levelized cost of energy generated by large scale solar plants is around $0.068/kWh, compared to $0.378 ten years ago and the price fell 13.1% between 2018 and 2019 alone, according to figures released by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

13. What are the next steps based on the Milestone Mega Solar Agreement?

Given the signing, bilateral engagements with the two Governments will now develop their joint stated priorities and timing. This phase moves past the conceptual to stakeholder engagement and technical feasibility, to include project site selection, with the ultimate goal of implementing a procurement phase which would entail detailed legal and regulatory due diligence and the design of country specific transaction documentation to attract competitive privately funded grid connected solar projects

14. How do you calculate/project the carbon equivalent of greenhouse gas to be averted?

Power Africa’s Mega Solar project once online is expected to avoid more than 6 million tons of CO2 annually (middle range estimate).

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Power Africa

Power Africa

A U.S. Government-led partnership that seeks to add 30,000 MW and 60 million electricity connections in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 > https://bit.ly/2yPx3lJ