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- We have connected 1.5 million households to clean, solar energy, in turn impacting 8 million lives.
- We have plans to penetrate further into our existing geographies through innovative models to help us reach last-mile customers more efficiently and effectively.
- Our strategy has always been to find affordable but also reliable and high-quality products.
How has the year 2022 been so far at Engie? What have been some key developments?
2022 been a challenging yet rewarding year and we are definitely on track to reach our goals. ENGIE Energy Access has been able to live up to its mission to Deliver Life-changing, Affordable, Reliable and Sustainable Energy Solutions with Exceptional Customer Experience. So far, we have connected 1.5 million households to clean, solar energy, in turn impacting 8 million lives. We enjoy a very high level of customer satisfaction: 92% of our customers are positive about our products and services. We have also installed over 45MW of solar capacity to date.
We continue to accelerate by integrating our SHS and mini-grid businesses while rolling out our upgraded product range and digital platform. We have launched our new Solar-Home-System brand “MySol” in all 9 countries where we operate and continue to provide “Best Solar, Best Life” to our customers. Our business continues to impact 12 SDGs through providing energy, including poverty alleviation, good health and wellbeing of our customers, provision of quality education, and promoting gender equality, just to mention a few.
What is the outlook of ENGIE Energy Access in the East Africa solar segment by FY 2023? What are the steps Engie Energy Access is taking to meet its sustainability goal for the African region?
EEA has a positive outlook for East Africa. We are present in 4 countries in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda) and have a strong ambition to improve access to energy in these countries.
We have plans to penetrate further into our existing geographies through innovative models to help us reach last-mile customers more efficiently and effectively, optimize and scale our energy products both up and down the pyramid, and expand “beyond energy” to help serve other essential needs of our customer base and continue to develop strategic partnerships with key organizations that share our mission and values.
Can you please give us a brief overview of Engie Energy Access’ Off-grid solar project outlook in the East Africa region? What is your view on different governments’ policies on small-scale off-grid and mini-grid solar projects in the East Africa region? How green financing could boost East Africa’s off-grid solar market?
Overall, government policies are still favorable. But we definitely believe there is room for more collaboration with East African authorities to foster a regulatory environment that will trigger growth through adequate policies.
Further subsidies are needed with regard to importing duty exemptions, as well as VAT reliefs. This will enable us to lower our product costs, making our off-grid solar solutions even more affordable for our customers. We also value a business environment that is efficient, understandable and consistent, to provide us with the confidence to make strategic investment decisions. We are pleased to have seen progress in this area and commitments from governments to support.
A combination of capital from private investors, impact funds, and multilateral funds is needed in order to reach the amount of funding necessary to realize the energy transition and meet SGG7 in Africa. We have seen an increase in grant and funding opportunities not only in East Africa but also in other regions of Africa. Countries like Mozambique have vast opportunities in Grants and Funding for both Minigrids and SHS – so this is a positive evolution for the sector.
What would be your choice between large format high-power P-type and N-type solar modules for East Africa’s off-grid solar plant and why? What is the technological advancement observed in off-grid solar inverters (with & without battery) in recent times?
Our strategy has always been to find affordable but also reliable and high-quality products.
Recent technological trends have seen more p-type PV panels in the market because they are of lower production cost compared to n-type, however n-type solar cells will give much better efficiency in the end, making the opportunity for longer-lasting products more attractive. The segmentation of PV panel technology can as well be done at the geographical level, where some markets with short-term needs can opt for p-type with the expectation of sooner grid expansion to those areas, whereas a more long-lasting product approach can be adopted for other less grid-expectant markets.
The choice of PV panel type may also become important depending on the nature of the project to be executed; where for larger projects such as Mini-grids, an approach towards n-type panels maybe considered, compared to more decentralized solar-home-system solutions which are sold to individual household customers in more interior areas where a p-type panel approach maybe more preferred.
Other recent technological advancements have mostly been influenced by the shortage of electronic components needed in the assembly of solar charge controllers and inverters in the market. This has affected the availability of certain MCUs and Modules needed for sub-assemblies of critical parts of solar products. This has pushed many companies to consider alternative components for use in their products, search for spot-buy market opportunities, and adapt to more medium-long terms forecasting in order to mitigate the effect. This approach can be costly to the organization, as it constantly requires commitments to critical supply chain and R&D resources.