One-on-One with Powercorner
In terms of defining priorities, what has made Minigrids the focus of Engie PowerCorner?
At ENGIE, we are convinced that providing access to electricity to everyone can only be possible through a smart combination of solar home systems, minigrids and national grid extension. Each of these solutions and very complementary and target, according to a least cost of electrification, specific customer segments, depending on their needs and the local context. ENGIE PowerCorner is the solution from ENGIE, dedicated to minigrid development and operation and is an integral part of ENGIE’s Access to Energy strategy. Its mission is to go beyond electricity, and to provide access to clean, affordable and reliable energy services to rural communities, together with strong customer engagement and providing access to energy efficient appliances.
There is now a broader recognition that the needs of remote communities go beyond basic access to energy – some lighting or telephone charge points – and evolve to a need for much larger capacities of energy that can also enable industrial processes and economic activity. How does Engie PowerCorner address those needs?
With ENGIE PowerCorner minigrids we aim to unlock the economic potential or rural communities. Our smart minigrids are the perfect technology to support development of economic activities, focusing on productive usages, income generating activities and public services. ENGIE PowerCorner’s focus lies in catalysing economic activity developments through providing access to reliable and affordable energy, access to electrical machines and energy efficient equipment, accompanied by strong customer engagement, and technical and business trainings. ENGIE PowerCorner provides all this to its users.
With regards to your defined strategic objectives, how is progress so far?
Created in 2015, ENGIE PowerCorner’s first minigrid has gone live in Tanzania in 2016. Its portfolio currently spans activities in 5 countries, with operations in Tanzania and Zambia with 13 operating minigrids and 3000 connections and construction of new minigrids in Uganda, Benin and Nigeria. With this, combined with the strategic focus on powering productive usages and income generating activities, ENGIE PowerCorner is well on track to realize ENGIE’s minigrid ambitions in Sub-Sahara-Africa, reaching 1000+ minigrids by 2025.
What is your prediction for the future of minigrids’ market? Is the minigrid sector on track to close the energy access gap?
The minigrid market is at a crucial moment of its development, having entered into an acceleration in terms of availability of minigrid development programs, regulatory integration of minigrids as part of the solution for rural electrification, and overall interest in minigrid assets from the donor community and financial investors. The increased overall awareness that minigrids are the least cost solution for the electrification of a large part of the currently unserved rural population in Sub-Sahara-Africa is creating a positive momentum and a strong opportunity to continue developing, finetuning and proving the value of the minigrid business model.
What more can be done to spur the growth of the minigrid sector and increase its potential to both provide electricity access to rural communities and support universal electrification goals in African economies?
The development of large scale, smart Result Based Financing subsidy programs, like AMDA’s Universal Electrification Facility, is key for bridging the current minigrid viability gap and for providing the necessary visibility towards private investors and for attracting large amounts of private capital to develop minigrids in scale. This scale will allow efficiencies of scale, increased operational performance and project finance structures which will finally lead towards a sustainable minigrid market.
Interview by Ludmila Azo (Africa Minigrid Developers Association)
Up-and-close with Engie PowerCorner
ENGIE PowerCorner is a mini-grid developer and operator that provides electricity to off-grid rural businesses, public services, households and facilitates access to energy efficient appliances (mills, industrial tools, etc.) via lease-to-own model. Intended for “off-grid” communities and replacing the use of polluting and hazardous solutions using diesel and kerosene, the ENGIE PowerCorner mini-grids provide clean, reliable and affordable energy, and aim at connecting individuals and SMEs, boosting the development of income generating activities and productive usages (i.e. shops, cafes, workshops, carpentry, mills, agricultural cooperatives etc.), thereby accelerating the economic development of rural communities.
Operational since 2016, ENGIE PowerCorner is currently operating or constructing minigrids in 5 African countries: Tanzania, Zambia, Benin, Uganda and Nigeria, benefitting thousands of customers. ENGIE PowerCorner aims to continue expanding its activities in sub-Saharan Africa with the ambition to develop thousands of mini-grids in the coming years and to becoming the leading mini-grid developer in Africa.
Together with Fenix International and ENGIE Mobisol, ENGIE PowerCorner is one of the 3 solutions of ENGIE that define ENGIE’s Access to Energy platform in Africa, aiming to provide optimal access to energy services to up to 25 Mio beneficiaries by 2025.