Winch Energy to raise US$2.12m for electrification via green mini grids in Africa

AFRICA – Off grid energy developer and technology integrator Winch Energy has launched a crowdfunding event with the aim of raising US$2.12m for rural electrification in Africa over the next two years.

The British company has a solid reputation for its electrification projects in East and West Africa and wants to accelerate the deployment of its electricity access solutions in sub-Saharan Africa.

The company has already received funding from Itochu Europe PLC, a subsidiary of Itochu Corporation, a Japanese-based trading company and the new fundraising will finance the deployment of its off-grid solar systems in Uganda and Sierra Leone, where the company has already electrified several villages.

A few months ago, Winch announced the launch of Winch Energy IPP Holdings (WIPP), a mechanism dedicated to the financing of its green mini grid projects in Africa.

This is a financing vehicle set up by Winch Energy in partnership with NEoT Off-grid Africa, a platform developed by Électricité de France (EDF), the Japanese firm Mitsubishi and Meridiam, a French company specialising in the development, financing and management of infrastructure projects.

The new facility provides Winch with US$16 million to finance 49 solar mini grids in Uganda and Sierra Leone.

The electricity provider’s partners also include Saudi Arabia’s Al Gihaz Holding and Total Eren, the renewable energy subsidiary of French oil company Total.

To date, Winch has a pipeline of green mini-grid projects that could provide 485,000 connections, enough to provide electricity access to 4.6 million people in West and East Africa.

According to theInternational Energy Agency (IEA), 320 million people have gained access to electricity between 2010 and 2018, however, the global population’s growth implies that more and more people have no access to electricity in Africa and they were 590 millionat the end of 2018.

“The British company wants to accelerate the deployment of its electricity access solutions in sub-Saharan Africa

Three main solutions exist to power sustainably those populations: grid extension, individual systems, and mini grids. The economical choice between those solutions is mainly linked to the distance to the grid, to the density of the population and to the level of service.

Grid extensionis the most classical answer but has several issues. It can be extremely expensive for remote communities and does not necessarily offer a good quality of service (case of “bad-grid”).

In its latest Africa Energy Outlook, the IEA considers grid extension as the least-cost option only for 45% of the population.

Individual electricity generation systemslike solar lamps or Solar Home Systems (SHS) can provide at a low cost a basic quality of service to regions with low population density.

SHS manufacturers or distributors (e.g., BBOXX, Mobisol, Fenix International, Total, Schneider Electric) have experienced significant growth in this market over the last years. However, those solutions usually power low-power appliances and are usually used as transition solutions.

Mini-gridslocal and isolated networks, have started to gain momentum in the last 5 to 10 years. In cases where the population is dense enough, they can offer a similar quality of service than grid extension as well as a lower cost than Solar Home Systems. It could represent the least-cost option for 30% of the non-connected African population.

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