UK-based InfraCo Africa and France-based Solvéo Energie have signed a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Guinea’s national power utility, Electricité de Guinée (EDG), ahead of the country’s first on-grid photovoltaic (PV) plant being built. 

InfraCo Africa, a co-investor and developer of infrastructure projects in Africa funded by the British, Dutch and Swiss governments, and Solvéo Energie are developing the 40MW Khoumagueli solar project, which is set to be Guinea’s first grid-connected solar plant. The PPA signing follows a concession agreement for the project, signed in February 2019. InfraCo Africa has committed $2.8m to the project and expects the plant to go online by early 2023.

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Gilles Vaes, chief executive of InfraCo Africa, said in a statement that the signing is a “key milestone for the Khoumagueli solar project, which will deliver reliable, affordable power to Guinea’s homes and businesses”. 

It also demonstrates, he continued, the “ongoing commitment of EDG and the government of Guinea to developing the country’s clean energy sector”.

The new plant is expected to mitigate the risk of fluctuating rainfall on hydropower generation at the nearby 75MW Garafiri hydroelectric plant.

Mr Vaes said that InfraCo Africa is also exploring other project opportunities in Guinea. 

Benjamin Attia, a senior research analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie, notes that “40MW of solar is not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but the Guinean grid has less than 600MW of installed capacity”. 

He stresses that, unlike in the US or Europe, solar energy projects in the region are “additive, not substitutionary”, meaning that the electricity generated does not simply replace pre-existing fossil fuels; instead, this project contributes to meeting electricity demand and reducing outages. 

The country, whose reliance on hydropower makes it susceptible to seasonal fluctuations, had a national electrification rate of 44% in 2018, according to the World Bank. 

In a June 2020 report entitled ‘Global photovoltaic power potential by country’, the World Bank illustrated the clear gap between Africa’s high solar power potential and its meagre installed capacity.

The planet’s daily solar PV potential is thought to be 3.0–5.0 kilowatt/hours (kWh) worldwide, and Guinea finds itself in the higher end of this scale at 4.44 kWh — testament to the country’s solar energy potential. However, the country has installed just 13.4MW worth of solar potential up until 2018, World Bank figures show. This is less than half that of Ireland, which has the world’s smallest solar potential, according to World Bank figures.

The Khoumagueli project, InfraCo Africa says, will also help enable the planned West African Power Pool project — a cooperation of 14 countries in the region aiming to create a more integrated regional electricity network.