Sierra Leone clinics receive free power from UK funded minigrids

Image: Andre Nery © 123RF.com

A solar minigrid project is delivering far-reaching health and socio-economic benefits in rural Sierra Leone to clinics following a $1.25 million loan from REPP, funded by the UK government.

The Moyamba project is being developed by Energicity after the company won a concession to build and/or upgrade and operate 32 minigrid sites from Sierra Leone’s Rural Renewable Electrification Project, which was conceived in the wake of the 2014 Ebola crisis to support the country’s struggling health care system.

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A significant part of the Moyamba project targets increasing the system’s capacity and strengthening its resilience to climate change via direct connection to hospitals and clinics.

As part of the agreement with the government, Energicity’s project company is required to provide a minimum daily amount of power to community health centres free of charge.

As well as supporting health care, all 32 minigrids are suitable for productive uses of energy (PUE), such as milling and grinding, thus providing income-generating opportunities for local businesses and direct job opportunities for communities.

Energicity, a subsidiary of majority women-led Energicity Corporation, is also developing behind the meter relationships with customers, providing value-added services such as leasing freezers and electric motors.

Renewable Energy Performance Platform’s (REPP) loan will now enable the completion of the project and provide funding for the operation of all 32 sites which are situated in Sierra Leone’s Port Loko, Kambia, Karene and Moyamba districts.

Once completed, the minigrid portfolio will provide first-time access to electricity to nearly 80,000 people, directly supporting Sierra Leone’s national electrification target of 92% by 2030. The sites will also add a combined 1.3MW of renewable energy capacity and avoid over 2,800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

Effect of supporting local businesses and clinics in Sierra Leone

Nicole Poindexter, CEO and Founder of Energicity Corporation, said: “With the support of REPP’s $1.25 million loan, the project is not only providing a source of reliable power to the districts’ under-pressure health clinics, but once completed will have connected almost 80,000 local people and small businesses to electricity for the first time.

“These people include Kadiatu Maseray, who with affordable and reliable electricity has increased the profits of her cold drinks business by 300% and the Conakry Dee Junior School, which has seen a 25% increase in attendance and a 235% increase in students passing since being connected to its local minigrid.

“We are grateful for the REPP team’s commitment to helping us achieve our vision of providing affordable, reliable, scalable electricity so that families and communities can thrive.”

Geoff Sinclair, Managing Director of REPP’s investment manager, Camco Clean Energy, said: ”The Ebola outbreak in 2014 had a devastating impact on Sierra Leone, and put an overwhelming demand on the country’s healthcare system. The ongoing success of the Moyamba project is a sign of a country on the mend and proof of how renewable energy initiatives present a viable investment decision for external investors.

“From the start, Moyamba has been designed to have the widest positive impact on people, not just through providing free power to hospitals and clinics, but by delivering a sufficiently high service quality so as to promote the productive use of electricity, as well as providing households with a clean, healthy and more affordable alternative to kerosene.”

By having 60% female representation in Energicity’s senior management team, the Moyamba project meets the 2X Challenge’s criteria for gender-lens investment. This means that of all REPP’s current investments, 53% now meet this widely regarded criterion for supporting gender equality.

“In its role as REPP’s investment manager, Camco is committed to increasing the role of women in the sector,” said Sinclair. “Unfortunately, women-led businesses remain a rare entity in sub-Saharan Africa’s renewable energy space, and so being able to support Moyamba as a majority women-managed project is a particular highlight.”

Originally published by Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl on esi-africa.com

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