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In an interesting interview with SolarQuarter Africa magazine, Trey Jarrard, CEO, of Renewvia Energy spoke about the company’s role and expansion in Africa, along with the potential and opportunities of being a mini-Grid Solar developer.
Could you please brief us about your company and its role in the RE sector?
Renewvia is a global renewable energy developer. We started the company in 2008, so we have 13 years of history in the US and other countries. We’ve developed on 3 continents and 5 countries. We started in the Distributed solar space in the US and gained a tremendous amount of experience before expanding into Africa where we started in a new sector of business in the off-grid sector. We now have 2 growing sectors of business, one in the distributed renewable energy sector where we are engaged by large commercial entities to design a renewable energy system that offsets a large percentage of energy that companies purchase from utilities. These companies can then own a large portion of the energy they need to operate their business from renewable sources. The second sector, the off-grid sector we are involved in both is West and East Africa, Renewvia becomes the utility for areas otherwise have never had a reliable and affordable source of power. We design, engineer, and build power systems and distribution systems that connect off-takers to our mini-grids. Renewvia off-grid generation systems grow with the communities and individuals as needs change.
As a US-based company, what made you decide to expand your services to Africa, and how are things going for your company in the region?
Initially, our motivation to expand in Africa and other parts of the world was to find areas where our power developments financially perform independently of any government financial incentives. We explored opportunities in Africa before setting up an organization in Kenya as our first country on the continent. Once we arrived and began evaluating specific opportunities, we realized what a significant need and greenfield opportunity the off-grid sector is.
Renewvia’s presence is growing quickly. Opportunity is finding its way to the company because we are executing. We are on the ground having built 22 mini-grids in communities across 2 countries serving approximately 20,000 people. Because of our presence, our structure, the backing of a US company, and over a decade of experience, we have a tremendous amount of opportunity finding our way to Renewvia which is providing a very rich and broad pipeline for the company to grow into.
Being a major Mini-Grid Solar developer, how do you see the growth of this segment in the region? What are the potential and opportunities?
The growth and opportunity are immense. The need is such that hundreds of independent off-grid solar developers would have trouble solving it. There are decades and decades of opportunities to supply power to communities that have no other source and will not be connected to the national grid. The national regulators of Kenya and Nigeria have implemented structures that provide private sector companies comfort to invest funds long term and we believe there will be substantial opportunity to expand into other countries in Africa as these required international investment regulations are emulated in other countries where they are already successful.
In the next couple of years, what is your company’s plan to support and promote renewable energy on the continent? Are you planning to expand your services to more African countries?
We are promoting renewable energy as a scalable solution for remote off-grid communities because new communities are requesting the same service and structure be brought to them as some of the neighboring communities have already received. On an ongoing basis, we are looking for opportunities in the form of communities that qualify with the criteria to enable Renewvia to develop mini-grids. We are supporting the effort in the same manner; we are building mini-grids and owning/operating them in the long term and trying to create as many efficiencies as we can to keep tariffs low and maintain a profitable entity. We do plan on expanding – we are constantly watching other countries’ regulations. As soon as regulators of those countries implement the mandates in place that protects the private sector and allow us to operate in a way that gives us the protection of the asset, we will be able to operate in a profitable manner. We hope to expand in operate in a few new countries every year.