Unleashing the whole potential of wind energy within Africa
An interview with Christian Wright, Regional Director for East Africa, Aldwych International & one of the principals responsible for launching the Lake Turkana Wind Project in Kenya, the largest wind farm in Africa and one of the projects ATI supported in 2014
Given your extensive knowledge of the African landscape, what role do you see wind energy playing in the continent’s overall economic development?
Increasingly, wind power is becoming an excellent source of much needed electricity in Africa. The wind resources in many areas allow for electricity to be produced at a much lower price than more traditional fossil fuel sources.
Will wind energy alone be enough to bring energy accessibility in Africa on par with other regions of the world?
Wind energy will play a crucial role but needs to be complemented by other forms of electricity generation in order to maintain a stable and diverse energy mix.
What is the significance of the Lake Turkana Wind Power project to Kenya and potentially to Africa? Do you have plans for similar projects in other African countries?
The Lake Turkana project represents a successful conclusion of financing a very challenging and pioneering deal. It is our hope that the lessons learned by sponsors, government, and lenders will allow the next wind deals to be completed more quickly. Aldwych is currently in the advanced stage of a 100MW wind farm in Tanzania and is evaluating a few more opportunities on the continent.
What are some of the challenges you encountered during the nearly decade long journey to finally launching the project?
It is difficult to be brief, but I would say the main challenge has been structuring the deal in order to permit the sufficient equity and debt to be raised and to maintain a low tariff for Kenya. Another challenge has been ensuring the transmission line would be in place to bring the power 436km to the load center. I must say we never would have been successful without the unswerving support of the Government of Kenya, Kenya Power, and the African Development Bank.
How important was ATI’s involvement in the project – what was their value added?
ATI was critical for Aldwych’s equity participation as the largest shareholder in the project. ATI’s responsiveness to the complex nature of the deal was impressive. Despite the moving timeline, ATI stuck with us and was able to deliver the needed cover at reasonable pricing in a timely manner. We will look first to ATI for each deal where we seek PRI.
Gazing into your crystal ball, what do you see as the energy future for Africa?
With the continued fortitude of developers like Aldwych, better understanding from governments and utilities, as well as the flexibility of lenders, the future for affordable and reliable electricity for Africa looks promising. It is the only way Africa can meet its vast potential.