Infrastructure | South Sudan to Tap Solar Amid Teetering Peace Deal

South Sudan, Capital Markets in Africa: Gigawatt Global Cooperatief UA, an Amsterdam-based renewable-energy developer, is working on South Sudan’s first solar project even as the country’s cease-fire teeters.

The world’s youngest country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, struck a peace deal in August after a two-year civil war. Sitting atop Africa’s third-largest oil reserves, South Sudan has no working central electricity system and is powered entirely by privately owned diesel generators.

“Some of the highest electricity prices in the world are in the most desperate countries. The system is broken,” said Yosef Abramowitz, Gigawatt Global’s president, in a telephone interview. “We want to provide a sustainable alternative to fossil-fuel vultures swooping in to sell at very high prices to vulnerable people.”

Despite 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers on the ground in South Sudan, clashes reportedly killed nearly 300 people in the capital of Juba last week, according Chatham House, a London-based research group. The U.S. government has ordered the evacuation of non-essential personnel from the capital and demanded an immediate end to fighting.

Setting Terms
Gigawatt Global will seek to set the terms for a 25-year power purchase agreement with the energy ministry next week if a team is able to safely travel to the country. The solar power plant will have a capacity of 20 megawatts once complete, Abramowitz said. It is expected to cost $30 million and be built in two stages.

The developer is in negotiations with the African Development Bank, which may finance around 65 percent of the costs. Equity investors could fund the remainder. It is also seeking a grant for batteries to store energy from the panels to be used at night.

Gigawatt Global is also working on solar projects in Burundi and Liberia. A 7.5-megawatt plant in Burundi is expected to reach financial close by the fourth quarter and cost $12 million, Abramowitz said. A power purchase agreement has already been signed.

The company is planning to install 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2020.

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