LUSAKA — On March 11, the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, and other dignitaries joined U.S. Ambassador Daniel L. Foote for the official commissioning of the Bangweulu Solar Project located in the Lusaka South Multi-Facility Economic Zone. Representing Zambia’s first utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) farm, the Bangweulu project was developed by Neoen and First Solar, a French-American Independent Power Producer consortium, under the management of Zambia’s Industrial Development Corporation and in partnership with the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) Scaling Utility-Scale Solar Program (known as “Scaling Solar”).
The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Power Africa initiative catalyzed the Bangweulu project, the first of multiple planned “Scaling Solar” alternative-power projects, through a $2 million grant from USAID/Zambia. The grant helped to lower project risk for bidders, contributed to the concessionary (i.e., more favorable) financing structure, and helped to generate over $100 million in private-sector investment in Zambia’s power sector.
“This project is not development as usual, but it is about partnership. It is an investment, where our governments supported a business model that makes sense,” said Ambassador Foote, taking special note of the unique nature of the Scaling Solar/Zambia program. “It delivers value for the Zambian people and value for the private sector. This partnership made Zambia’s first utility-scale solar project feasible, providing affordable power to Zambian households, schools, hospitals, and businesses.”
The U.S. government’s development finance institution, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), also provided a $13 million senior loan for the project, alongside IFC financing. As a result of this OPIC/IFC assistance, the solar farm will deliver 47.5 megawatts of electricity at $0.06/kWh, among the most affordable prices in Africa for a solar PV farm. Neoen oversaw the operation of the solar installation, while First Solar supplied the solar panels.
Power Africa, the U.S. government-led partnership coordinated by USAID to double electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa, has two distinct goals: 1) to increase new generation capacity by 30,000 megawatts, and 2) to help create 60 million new electricity connections by 2030. For more information, visit www.usaid.gov/powerafrica.