Hannah Kabir, REAN Member and CEO of Creeds Energy, shares insights on the Unlocking Solar Capital conference in this guest post
The Unlocking Solar Capital Africa 2016 (USCA16) conference was held in Nairobi Kenya between 1–3 of November 2016. It was well attended by 300+ participants from 23 countries. Over the two days, the theme of “developing bankable solar solutions in Africa” was explored within plenary discussions and breakout sessions across three spectrums: on-grid, mini-grid and off-grid.
For members of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) in attendance, it was an avenue for introducing the association as representative of industry players in Nigeria, enriching our networks and understanding what is required from practitioners, companies and project developers in order to access capital at various stages of growth.
On the off-grid panel discussions, there was a good mix of case studies from start-ups, such as Arnergy and PaySolar, companies such as Mobisol, BBOXX and SolarNow which are at more advanced growth stages, and financing institutions including SunFunder and Oikocredit, who elaborated on the investment needs of the market and where their funds are being allocated.
Discussions on unlocking mainstream capital moderated by Christine Eibs-Singer, Director of Global Advocacy at Power for All, structured financing moderated by Andrew Reicher, Chairman of Berkeley Energy Africa, and working capital needs for off-grid companies, moderated by Laura Sundblad, Program Advisor at the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), were also enlightening. On the final day, the Off-grid Solar Investment Academy was the icing on the cake. Educative and insightful, it touched on business planning, financial projections and how to raise capital for off-grid solar projects.
REAN President, Mr. Segun Adaju, noted that USCA16 was “one of the best gatherings of practitioners of solar energy that I’ve been to. The theme of unlocking solar capital can’t be more relevant than now, as it created a very good platform to explore funding opportunities for solar, especially in Nigeria. It was also a great opportunity to meet practitioners and developers of off-grid solar to learn about their business models and technologies. This has created opportunities for scaling our business operations and entering into new partnerships for the Nigerian market.”
For REAN Member, Mr. Dotun Tokun, “the conference was an eye-opener to various avenues of getting financing for solar projects. It was also apparent from contributions from different companies that financing is key to scaling up in the solar industry.” He added that “without financing the solar sectors (off-grid, mini-grid or on-grid) in Nigeria will not achieve the ginormous potential that exist.”
The REAN roundtable also met with many potential partners that are interested in the Nigerian market, and held side meetings to discuss both opportunities and the support required to promote distributed renewable energy in the country. At the conference, discussions highlighted the role of technology, e.g. pay-as-you-go in off-grid solar with all hands pointing at the huge market opportunity in Nigeria.
It is little wonder a similar conference is being planned for Nigeria in April 2017 to enable practitioners and investors to explore the local market. Our thanks to the organizers and promoters of the conference, and especially GOGLA, RECP, Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Power for All and Solar Plaza. REAN looks forward to working with all stakeholders in the months ahead to showcase what Nigeria—and Nigerian companies—have to offer in the decentralized renewable energy space.