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In an exciting interview with SolarQuarter Africa magazine, Geoffrey Ronoh – Co-founder and Director, of OFGEN spoke about the company’s presence, services, and successful contributions to the region. He also spoke about the energy storage solutions and their importance and his views on the renewable sector’s performance in the coming future.
Please brief our readers about OFGEN’s presence in Africa and the services you provide.
OFGEN’s presence has been in the Eastern Africa region for the last few years, but we shifted our focus to the wider African continent last year because we saw a great opportunity for renewable energy, particularly solar, due to the increased demand for more clean and reliable power. Currently, OFGEN develops, designs, finances, procures, builds, operates, and maintains photovoltaic systems for the commercial and industrial sectors in Africa.
To date, the company has cumulatively built and financed over 30+ on-grid and off-grid solar plants with 10+ MWp solar capacity and 9.3MWh of battery energy across Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan markets. The company has delivered projects for the likes of Williamson Tea Estate, GlaxoSmithKline, Serena Group of Hotels, Toyota, and British American Tobacco.
A word about your recent successful contributions to this industry?
We successfully commissioned our first carport solar plant with a capacity of 340kWp and 715 kWh Tesla Powerpack at UAP Equatorial Towers in Juba South Sudan. The solar project was built on the building’s parking lot to provide shade to vehicles during the day. Excess energy from the PV plant is stored in Tesla power packs, lowering the cost of diesel consumed by generators. OFGEN’s innovative financial model enabled the end-user to pay only for the energy consumed, resulting in immediate savings.
Your company does many Solar Projects with Storage Solutions. How do you see the energy storage market evolving in the region in the near future?
The African energy storage market is rapidly expanding as demand for alternative energy sources grows, particularly in areas without grid power. With the adoption of solar and wind power increasing in Africa, battery storage solutions will be critical in assisting green energy resources to reach their full potential in the region.
What are the challenges you see with this?
The key challenge right now is that energy storage is quite expensive and not widely deployed in large energy projects in Africa. Therefore, there is a need to make it more affordable and locally available.
Your company has been doing projects in many African countries, what is the major challenge you face in most of these countries which you believe should be addressed immediately.
Lack of proper government legislation in most African countries that support a low-carbon transition, i.e., high tax rates and customs clearance. Regional governments need to increase their support and investment in renewable energy, i.e., in the form of subsidies, policies, financial assistance, tax incentives, and infrastructure development. Additionally, there is a need for increased investment in public-private partnerships, especially in the development of renewable energy plants, i.e., solar and wind power plants.
Another challenge is the difficulty in market entry, whereby renewable energy companies compete with the already well-established existing technologies in this case use of fossil fuels an energy source that already has existing infrastructure, expertise, and policy. Hence the private sector to push for market transformation policies by encouraging low carbon transition within the sector.
How do you think the Renewable Energy sector is going to perform in the next 5 years in Africa? Do you see more foreign investors coming in and investing in the sector?
The renewable energy sector is rapidly expanding due to the increased demand for clean and reliable energy sources, particularly solar power, which has a potential capacity of 10 TW in Africa. The continent should be able to reach its full potential in terms of access to renewable power if enough support is provided not only by the government but also by private investors. Africa has excellent investment opportunities since it has one of the world’s largest untapped solar energy resources. Hence, I foresee more foreign investors coming and investing in the renewable energy sector.