Centennial Generating Company is set to invest US$10m in scaling up its off-grid hybrid solar and battery storage power generation systems as it embarks on expansion in East Africa.
The independent power producer targets commercial and industrial customers in Rwanda and elsewhere in the region in the next three years. This segment of the market is underserved as most off-grid solar power generation is rural based, focused on pay-as-you-go services like Ignite Solar or large utility-scale projects.
In the middle are corporate customers, in and near cities that face relatively expensive power bills and frequent power outages, adding to the costs of running businesses. Some resort to diesel generators.
According to industrial players, the cost of generating power from diesel run generators is estimated at 0.33 per kWh while solar is less than US$0.12 per kWh,
Centennial pioneered its solar power generation and selling to the Kigali Memorial Centre in March 2016, resulting in the centre reducing diesel usage and paying lower power costs.
Affordability of solar power coupled with its reliability has generated interest from business leaders in Uganda and Rwanda.
“We are focused on 1MW projects for various hotels, commercial buildings and factories, but customers in Uganda and Rwanda have indicated an interest in more than 5MW of projects over the coming 2 to 3 years,” said David John Frenkil, founder and Managing Director of Centennial Generation Company, a former Infrastructure Project Finance attorney at international law firms.
According to Mr. Frenkil, the average size for the projects under development is 100kW.
“We are working with private investors to fund the projects, which will require about US$1m for every 1MW installed in the aggregate,” he said.
He explained that the purpose of Centennial is to make it easier for businesses to operate in the region by lowering power costs and stabilise power supply for their corporate customers, while offering a hassle free service.
In Rwanda, businesses experience two-hour power outages daily while in Uganda, it is estimated at six hours, forcing businesses into the expensive environmentally unfriendly diesel generators.
The strong demand from industrial and commercial customers is explained by the hope to save on electricity bills and reduce carbon footprint. It is estimated that power costs add 40 per cent to the operational budget in East Africa.
Centennial installs, owns, operates and maintains the electricity generated from the PV solar systems, which has made solar energy more affordable than other source of electricity.