EEP AFRICA INTERVIEW: “We are one of the few, if not the only, support mechanisms that assist project developers in a very early stage”
Exclusive interview with Wim Jonker Klunne, Lead Coordinator for EEP Africa and longstanding expert partner of African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa. EEP Africa is running a side event again this year and presenting several talks.
Can we start with an update on EEP Africa activities and particular highlights during the last 12 months?
Certainly. Over the last 12 months EEP Africa has seen an enormous interest in our activities. In particular our Call for Proposals that we launched at the African Utility Week last year did attract many good proposals. In total we received 530 applications! A clear indication of the need of a programme like EEP Africa.
Next to that we did launch our mini grid study, organised our knowledge event as part of the Rwanda Sustainable Energy Week and had a very successful Investor Forum.
And earlier this year we did open our 15th Call for Proposals that specifically looks at women in the energy value chain. Again we received a large number of applications, which we are currently evaluating.
How is EEP making a difference in getting renewable energy projects off the ground on the continent?
EEP Africa is one of the few, if not the only, support mechanism that assists project developers in a very early stage. We are able to take risks that are too large for the project developer to take on his or her own and too early in the development chain for commercial investors to look at. Experience from the past shows us that this works: a very substantial number of projects we supported in the past have been able to grow and attract other investments.
What in your view from practical on the ground experience are the main challenges for RE in Africa? And the opportunities?
Next to the financing needs where we can assist, I do see the main challenge in the enabling environment for private sector investment in renewable energy. To convince private sector players to invest in renewable energy a stable and predictable regulatory framework is key. This includes clarity on national electrification programmes: we need to know when and where government is planning to provide electricity through grid extension.
The opportunity is in the scale of the problem. With around 600 million people in Africa lacking access to clean and reliable electricity a huge potential market is there. With current technology developments and reduced costs of in particular solar PV we see large opportunities in Africa.
Please tell us all about EEP’s activities at this year’s African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa in Cape Town in May?
EEP Africa will be at the AUW with a large team: we will organise our by-invitation-only Investor Forum the day before the AUW, as that has proven to be very effective in attracting particularly investors to our event as they will attend AUW. At the AUW itself we have the EEP Project of the Year, Vitalite from Zambia, speaking at the main conference, while we have a number of other EEP Africa supported projects speaking at the Knowledge Hubs. We will also organise an official side event around “Early stage financing for Renewable Energy projects” at the Renewable Energy Knowledge Hub on the first day of AUW.
And we are very proud that one of our supported projects, the East Africa Power/Rubagabaga Hydro Power project, has been nominated for an Industry Award….
Caption: EEP Africa’s Wim Jonker Klunne in action at last year’s Knowledge Hubs at African Utility Week.
How important is AUW and POWERGEN on the energy calendar?
For us the African Utility Week is a major event on the yearly calendar as it has become THE place to meet all stakeholders in the sector. It therefore provides an excellent platform to disseminate the learnings arising from our work and from the project developers we support, as well as to strengthen existing relationships and start new ones.