Diversification of the energy mix and prospects for cross-border power trading to secure energy for Africa’s future are just some of the discussion points during the opening session of the annual Hydropower Africa and Solar Energy Africa events in Johannesburg from 19-23 September.  Some 450 experts from government, utilities, banks, legal firms and construction firms will focus on issues surrounding the financing and the implementation of hydropower and solar energy projects in Africa – both large and small.   

Making hydropower work in Zambia
Several of the experts who will present their success stories are from Zambia, an African country that has been particularly successful in implementing hydropower.  Johannesburg-based law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf has extensive experience in power projects all over Africa and are the preferred legal firm for hydroelectric deals in Zambia.  Ben Donovan is a partner:  “there is excellent potential for further hydropower projects in the country, including the several recently-announced projects, and Zambia is well-positioned in terms of geography, water resources and transmission infrastructure to be a very important part of the southern, central and east African power industry.  We hope to continue to be very involved in the Zambian electricity sector.”

Government support often vital
According to Ben Donovan the most challenging aspects of these transactions are not legal issues, but often sociopolitical issues.  He explains:  “the IPP industry is either relatively new or non-existent in most countries in Africa, and particularly with large hydroelectric projects the sponsor is often a parastatal, as is the offtaker.  Furthermore, where a foreign investor or lenders are involved, they generally require additional protections for their investment or loans.  Because of these reasons, government support is often vital for the viability of these projects, which in my experience is usually one of the most difficult and time-consuming hurdles to overcome.”  

Lenders with money to lend to good projects
Despite the challenges he says it is “a fascinating industry in the African context”.  He says the unique sociopolitical issues in Africa, and the relatively underdeveloped state of the industry in most of the continent mean that projects which would be relatively straightforward in Europe or America are challenging here.  He continues:  “but there is a huge pent-up demand for power on the continent (and lenders with money to lend to good projects), but not enough projects to meet this demand.  The challenge will be for developers, parastatals and governments to continue to battle to get projects to the finish line.”  

Hydropower Africa event dates and location:  
Conference:  19-20 September 2011, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg.
Post-conference workshops:  21 September 2011, Sandton Convention Centre, Jhb
Site visit:  22-23 September 2011
–  Large hydro:  Kafue Gorge Power station, Kariba North Bank Power Station, Zambia
Event website:  www.hydropowerafrica.com   

Co-located event: Solar Energy Africa – a niche convention forum that will address current challenges and look at opportunities and growth potential for sustainable solar energy provision in Africa.
Conference:  19-20 September 2011, Sandton Convention Centre, Jhb
Post-conference workshops:  21 September 2011, Sandton Convention Centre, Jhb
Event website:  www.solarenergy-africa.com

For more information:
Communications Manager: Annemarie Roodbol
Email: Annemarie.roodbol@clarionevents.com
Tel: +27 21 700 3558
Fax: +27 21 700 3501
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 562 7844