CEI Africa Awards $3.1 Million Grant to DRC Green Minigrid Developer

Oct. 13, 2023
The funds will be used to create what could be the largest solar minigrid in sub-Saharan Africa.

Stichting Clean Energy and Energy Inclusion for Africa (CEI Africa) is awarding a nearly $3.1 million grant to support the creation of a 3.7-MW solar minigrid in the Goma region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Goma is the provincial capital of North Kivu Province and one of the largest cities in eastern DRC.

The second largest country in Africa by land area, the DRC has no interconnected national grid and, as a result, has one of the lowest rates of electrification in the world.The World Bank estimates only 19% of the country’s population – and only 1% of those living in rural areas – have access to electricity.

Minigrids are increasingly powering remote African communities

Minigrids, which are sometimes referred to as remote microgrids, are typically used in remote areas that do not have access to a central grid. Microgrids, on the other hand, are typically grid-connected but have the ability to island, or operate independently, during a grid outage.

Minigrid technology is rapidly being deployed across the African continent in countries like Nigeria, Tanzania, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

CEI Africa, which was established in 2021 to improve energy access for rural households and businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, has earmarked 21 million euros ($22.2 million) to support the development of green minigrids through results-based financing (RBF) grants in Mali, DRC and Benin.

It hopes to expand the program to Sierra Leone and Madagascar in 2024. 

The organization awarded the $3.1 million RBF grant to Nuru, a Goma-based green minigrid developer first launched in 2015 as Kivu Green Energy. CEI Africa expects that the project could be the largest off-grid, fully islanded green minigrid in sub-Saharan Africa.

“On behalf of CEI Africa, we are delighted to support expansion of energy access in DRC,” said Claudia Vroom, board member of CEI Africa. “Electricity is a cornerstone of economic development and companies like Nuru are on the front line of electrifying underserved counties … thus supporting the government’s target of universal electrification.”

“We’re excited about CEI Africa’s RBF program. It expedites Nuru’s ability to bring 24/7 renewable energy to thousands in Goma, DRC, and transforms challenging sites into viable investments,” said Jonathan Shaw, co-founder and CEO of Nuru.

“CEI Africa’s support is crucial for derisking and unlocking new projects in fragile settings like DRC, making a massive impact,” Shaw added.

The grant funding will be dispersed as Nuru makes new electricity connections.

Expanding access to power with minigrids

The 3.7-MW minigrid, as well as the company’s planned 150 kilometer (93 mile) distribution network, mark a significant expansion of Nuru’s work in the region.

In 2020, the company successfully launched a 1.3-MW solar hybrid metrogrid (another name for a minigrid) in the Ndosho district of Goma. That installation includes 4,000 solar panels and a battery energy storage system.

Earlier this year, the company announced that it had raised over $40 million in Series B equity funding.

With a total installed capacity of 5 MW, it is expected that over 40,000 direct end users will benefit from the minigrids in Goma. The company’s goal is to connect 5 million people in the DRC to reliable power by the end of third quarter 2024.

“The timing of CEI Africa’s DRC funding was perfect. Their support aligns with our equity round, propelling our metrogrid business to profitability and long-term sustainability,” Shaw said. “Our partnership not only provides world-class energy services but also decarbonizes existing sources, building resilient, sustainable communities.”

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About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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