On Monday US-based Dutch owned power company signed two global grants for a solar power project in Burundi 65 miles from the capital of Bujumbura, East Africa.

Gigawatt Global (GWG) who is a partner of Power Africa and Power Africa‘s Beyond the Grid sub-initiative, is receiving financial support from Power Africa via the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the Energy and Environment Partnership (EEP), a coalition representing the British, Finnish, and Austrian governments.

The funding amounts to $1 million to develop a 7.5MW solar field which is expected to boost the country’s power generation by 15%.

GWG claims that the solar plant will generate enough power to electrify 60,000 households at a total cost expected to reach $20 million.

Yosef Abramowitz, President of Gigawatt Global, an American-owned Dutch developer said: “Our impact investment model is to strengthen developing nations, both economically and environmentally, by providing renewable energy sources where they are most needed.”

“We plan to build 1,000 solar megawatts in Africa by 2020, thereby providing electricity to millions of households and institutions that are currently without the most basic of human needs.”

Allocation of funds

GigaWatt-Global-Solar-project-in-Burundi
Michael Fichtenberg, Managing Director of GWG Burundi, with Hon. Jean-Jacques Nyenimigabo, Advisor to the President, representatives of the Polytechnic University of Gitega, Omer Ndayishimiye, Representative to the Gitega Municipal Council. Pic credit: Gigawatt Global

GWG said that “the USTDA’s grant will fund a feasibility study that will address key technical and economic aspects of the solar project, conduct environmental and social impact assessments, and provide the necessary analysis for the project to secure financing.”

“The grant funds awarded by EEP will be used for pre-development works and legal costs”, GWG added.

“USTDA is pleased to provide Gigawatt Global Burundi S.A. this grant for a feasibility study, which will utilize U.S. industry expertise to advance this important project,” said USTDA Director Leocadia I. Zak.

“This activity supports Power Africa’s objectives of increasing access to power and promoting greater private investment in Africa’s energy sector”, Zak continued.

With a total of 52MW of installed capacity the government of Burundi has signed an MoU with GWG to develop the solar project in order to develop and grow the economy by contributing towards job creation and local content.

Gigawatt Global’s VP of Finance and Managing Director of the GWG Burundi project, Michael Fichtenberg said that: ” The Burundi Government’s good will, with the close cooperation and support of the U.S. and Dutch Embassies, has been crucial in advancing the country’s first utility-scale solar energy generation facility that addresses the crippling energy crisis and will directly contribute to the economic growth and stability of Burundi. We believe that this pioneering solar project can be the bellwether for further western investment in Burundi.”

Sustainability of the East African Power Pool

Currently, about a quarter of electricity generated in the East African Power Pool (EAPP) countries comes from hydropower, and with future investments creating a greater dependence on hydropower.

The EAPP has identified hydropower projects that will almost double the EAPP’s current installed capacity; an estimated 60% will come from Ethiopian hydropower generation alone.

The EAPP Master Plan does not include an analysis of the effects of climate change on the regional power strategy or provide any insight into possible problems associated with climate change conditions.

The Master Plan mentions Ethiopia’s vulnerability to drought but makes no attempt to address the impacts of possible droughts on the region’s economy. Africa is considered the continent most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, yet most of its dam projects are being planned with very little analysis of the risks of climate change to these projects.