Eiser backs West Africa’s largest solar plant

Infranews 30 Jan 2018 - French renewables developer Akuo Energy has reached financial close on the Akuo Kita solar project in Mali – West Africa’s largest solar power plant to date. The EUR 78m 50MW Akuo Kita Solar power plant is also Mali’s first solar PV project run by a private sector independent power producer, according to the French developer. Akuo provided an undisclosed equity amount. EISER Infrastructure Partners advised Green Africa Power (GAP), which provided a EUR 8m mezzanine facility with a 20-year duration.

GAP, which is part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), is funded by the UK and Norwegian governments and aims to stimulate private investments in renewable energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa. The overall funding for the Kita plant was arranged by the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), also a member of PIDG.

PIDG is funded by the World Bank Group and donors from seven countries (UK, Switzerland, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands and Germany). In the case of EAIF, funding comes from the governments of the UK, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as KfW and FMO.

Investec Asset Management-managed EIAF acted as MLA on the Kita solar project, arranging a 15-year EUR 54m senior debt facility. Banque Ouest Africaine de Développement (BOAD) was co-arranger. EIAF provided EUR 17m of the senior debt, and BOAD provided roughly the same amount. The rest of the senior debt was provided by Dutch development finance institution FMO and Malian lender Banque Nationale de Développement Agricole (BNDA).

Another PIDG company, GuarantCo, provided a debt service reserve account guarantee in order to credit-enhance the debt. Commenting on the project, GuarantCo CEO Lasitha Perera said the project demonstrates “the critical role that credit enhancement can play in improving the viability of essential infrastructure”. GAP executive director Peter Hutchinson added that the closing highlighted “the need for a blend of different financial instruments”, noting that the deal could serve as a “template for future solar schemes”.

Announced on Monday (29 January), the closing came more than two years after Akuo and the Malian government signed a concession agreement in October 2015. The new plant will be located in Kita, around 100km northwest of Bamako, Mali’s capital. The project includes transmission infrastructure connecting into the local electricity grid. Construction is due to last 12 months.

Akuo Kita Solar will sell its power to national utility Electricité du Mali under a 28-year PPA.

Lenders’ advisers included Norton Rose (legal), Jurifis (legal), Sgurr Energy (technical), Marsh (insurance) and BDO (model and tax audit).

Akuo Kita is EAIF’s second project in Mali. In June 2017, it announced its backing for Albatros Energie Mali, which is building a 90MW heavy fuel oil power plant.

Akuo Energy aims to establish an African portfolio totalling around 1GW in the medium term.

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