Winch Energy has announced that it has signed a contract with the Ministry of Energy in Sierra Leone; to provide electricity to 24 towns and villages in northern Sierra Leone through solar mini-grids as part of a public-private partnership project. The Rural Renewable Energy Project (RREP) is supported by UK aid grant funding and implemented by United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
The first 12 mini-grids have already been installed. Winch Energy aims to make these operational by June 2019 with over 6,000 people set to benefit from a direct connection to the mini-grids in the first phase of the project. An additional 12 larger mini-grids will be installed and operated by Winch Energy starting Q4 2019, providing direct electricity connections to an additional 24,000 people. The 24 localities have a combined population of over 40,000 people who will benefit from proximity to the mini-grids, estimated to have a final combined installed capacity of over 1.2 MW. When completed, RREP will be one of the largest off-grid projects of its kind in Africa to date.
The Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Energy has developed a strategy for active participation and involvement of the private sector in the operation and maintenance of solar mini-grid systems through Public-Private Partnership arrangements. This UK aid-funded RREP will see 100 villages electrified by solar mini-grids by 2020. In addition, this project will make Winch Energy one of the biggest suppliers of electricity in Sierra Leone measured by number of customers. It also contributes to Winch Energy’s aim of implementing mini-grids at scale across the continent.
The project will benefit the target communities through additional business services (e.g. internet, refrigeration, printing, television, etc.), which will help to increase income within the locality and offer a better serviced trading centre to the surrounding local population. The project will also encourage productive uses of electricity and larger industrial loads such as milling and welding.
These services will improve the socio-economic situation in the locality as well as ensuring the long-term sustainability of the project. The local population will also benefit from Wi-Fi services to enhance communications and educational material. The project will also help provide robust infrastructure to the community health centres to assist with the country’s post-Ebola recovery. Electricity to the health centres will be prioritised to ensure they have the services they need to provide adequate health services to the local populations, especially in the event of any future health emergencies.
Winch Energy’s CEO, Nicholas Wrigley, said, “We are absolutely delighted to have been selected by the Government of Sierra Leone to build and operate off-grid localities in the country. This project places the Winch Energy Group in the leading group of operators who are transforming the off-grid market in Africa and elsewhere. We believe that electricity and related services is transformant to communities helping to kick start local businesses and enhance wealth and prosperity. We are committed to substantial investment in Sierra Leone and expect to add more customers and localities to our business in coming months, with the help of our local management team and employees.”