April 15, 2024

French Company Connects 20+ Communities with Solar Mini-Grids

Engie Energy Access, a division of the French energy firm Engie, has launched its inaugural mini-grid in Dohouè, a southern village in Benin, marking the beginning of its initiative to establish more than 20 such grids across the country. These mini-grids aim to provide sustainable electricity to over 30,000 individuals in 20 rural areas, with a combined capacity of 1.2 MW.

Solar Mini-Grid Powered by 135 kW of Solar Panels

The Dohouè MySol Grid, powered by 135 kW of solar panels and backed by 130 kWh of Lithium-ion batteries, connects over 1,500 residents and businesses to reliable energy solutions.

According to the company’s release, Engie Energy Access has obtained a 20-year license for the project in partnership with the Beninese Agency for Rural Electrification and Energy Management.

Gillian-Alexandre Huart, CEO of Engie Energy Access, highlighted the versatility and affordability of their solar home systems and mini-grids in Benin, emphasising their ability to address the diverse needs of households, communities, and businesses beyond the national grid.

"Our comprehensive offering across solar home systems and mini-grids in Benin enables a cost-effective and flexible multi-technological approach," said Gillian-Alexandre. “As a result, we can provide for the different urgent demands of productive, communal, and residential users who live off the national grid.”

He continued. "We are dedicated to empowering every member of the communities we serve by providing low-income households with access to clean energy technologies."

Initiative to Provide for 30,000 People in 20 Rural Regions

This project is part of a larger plan that will see Engie Energy Access build and run 20 more mini-grids throughout Benin.

These mini-grids, funded partly by the Millennium Challenge Account – Benin II program under the Off-grid Clean Energy Facility, are projected to collectively provide 1.2 MW of installed capacity and cater to over 30,000 individuals across 20 rural areas.

Looking ahead, ENGIE Energy Access Benin's Country Director, Christelle Agossou, reaffirmed the company's vision by saying, "Looking towards the future, ENGIE Energy Access is building and will be running 20 additional mini-grids across the country."

“As part of the Off-grid Clean Energy Facility (OCEF), these mini-grids, which are co-funded by the Millennium Challenge Account - Benin II initiative, will together provide 1.2 MW of installed capacity, lighting the lives of over 30,000 people in 20 remote villages,” noted Agossou

According to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency, Benin concluded last year with a total installed solar capacity of 28 MW. Recently, Japanese developer Toyota Tsusho also unveiled intentions to establish a 25 MW solar plant within the country.

Benin's Push for Solar Energy Development

African nations are increasing efforts to boost solar energy production for affordability and environmental sustainability. Benin has similarly intensified its focus on expanding green energy output, leveraging its untapped solar energy potential. Despite reliance on imported fossil fuels and limited electricity access, Benin's government is actively promoting solar energy projects to address energy needs.

Benin faces energy shortages for its 12.2 million residents despite its significant energy resource potential. With almost 59% of the population lacking electricity access, the country heavily relies on imported energy from neighbouring countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Ghana, costing over $130 million annually. Nevertheless, Benin offers affordable electricity rates, scoring 81 out of 100 for electricity affordability in 2019. The government is actively working to improve electricity accessibility and achieve energy self-sufficiency.

Benin, along with other ECOWAS nations, aims to achieve significant electrification targets and incorporate more renewable energy into its energy mix by 2025. However, the effective execution of these goals remains a challenge. To address this, Benin's government is actively working on policies and reforms to promote renewable energy development, recognizing the importance of utilizing the country's abundant renewable resources.

Solar PV is set to play a significant role in Benin's energy future, with plans for multiple solar power plants totalling 50 MW capacity. Initiatives like the Millennium Challenge Account-Bénin II and projects by solar investors aim to expand solar infrastructure across the country, supported by organizations like the Agence Française de Developement and the United Nations Development Program.

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