Husk Power Systems wants to bring electricity to millions in Africa

Husk Power Systems, owner of the largest fleet of mini-grids in Africa and Asia, has set a target of erecting solar-powered mini-grids in six African nations to bring electricity to 7.7 million people and more than 200 000 small businesses within five years.

The so-called “Africa Sunshot” plan will involve constructing 2 500 grids at a cost of as much as US$500-million (R9.6-billion). The company also separately plans to install more than 150MW of rooftop solar in that time, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Husk, which currently operates 200 mini-grids in Nigeria and India, aims to install a thousand more in the West African nation, 500 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 250 in each of four yet-to-be-identified African countries.

“In the 33 least-developed countries in Africa, the electrification rate is only 36%,” Husk said. “Without a massive industry scale-up and a more than 10-fold increase in the industry’s current deployment rate” Africa will take decades to provide power to all its people, the company said, citing a World Bank estimate that $91-billion would be needed to supply power through mini-grids to 380 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

In Africa, the world’s least developed continent, mini-grids are increasingly seen as an answer to supplying electricity to the 600 million people, or about half the population, without access to electricity.

Weak national grids and a lack of government finance for major power plant and transmission line projects has meant that they are often the cheapest way of electrifying both rural and urban communities.

Husk Power Systems

Mini-grids, many of which run on solar power, also cut emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases as they often replace diesel generators.

The Africa Sunshot “will need the active support of governments to get the right policies in place that integrate mini-grids as a central component of national electrification and energy transition plans”, Manoj Sinha, Husk’s co-founder and CEO, said in the statement. “All investors, including development finance institutions, infrastructure funds and commercial debt providers, must provide the appropriate quantum, tenure and cost of capital to meet these accelerated timelines.”

Read: R4.7-billion funding sought for Kariba solar project

The company plans to raise about $100-million this year to start the plan and as much as $400-million later. It has previously secured $25-million from Shell Ventures, Engie Rassembleurs d’Energies, Dutch development bank FMO and Swedish development finance institution, Swedfund International.

The $500-million to be raised will be a mixture of equity and debt. Husk also provides other energy services.  — (c) 2023 Bloomberg LP

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