African solar in focus on first day of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

Project loans announced at a session of the International Renewable Energy Agency assembly in the capital

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 13 JANUARY 2019. Opening sessions of IRENA converence at St Regis Saadiyat. Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Roberta Pennington. Section: National.
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Representatives from more than 150 countries are gathered in the capital, as the first day of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week saw millions of dollars made available for new solar projects in Africa.

Summit Mauritius and Rwanda have been awarded a combined US$25 million in concessional loans by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development to build solar projects aimed at boosting renewable energy supplies in low-income communities.

The loans were announced at the eighth session of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) Assembly Saturday in Abu Dhabi where 1,100 government and corporate officials from around the world are meeting to discuss opportunities and challenges in the renewable energy sector.

With a loan of US$10 million, Mauritius’s Central Electricity Board will install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on the rooftops of 10,000 homes, bringing a new source of sustainable and low-cost energy to about 35,000 people.

In Rwanda, the ADFD loan of US$15 million will help fund the installation of 500,000 off-grid solar PV home systems that will provide electricity for lighting, mobile phone and radio charging. The project is expected to improve electricity access for 2.5 million people in rural Rwanda, while creating more than 2,000 local jobs.


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Both loans are for a term of 20 years and each country has been granted a five-year grace period. Mauritius has been charged 2 percent interest and Rwanda 1 percent.

“Time and time again, the UAE has demonstrated its unwavering dedication to assisting developing countries in the pursuit of their development goals through funding multiple sectors, including the renewable energy sector – a cornerstone and leading catalyst of sustainable long-term growth,” said Mohamed Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the ADFD.

The loans are drawn from the Irena/ADFD Project Facility, a US$350 million fund the ADFD set aside in 2013 toward financing renewable energy projects in developing countries that are members of IRENA, which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi. Over the past five funding cycles, the ADFD has awarded US$214 million in loans to 21 renewable energy projects in 20 developing countries.

“Through our continued partnership with Irena, we seek to emphasise the feasibility and benefits of renewable energy,” said Mr Al Suwaidi. “Together, we work to deploy sustainable projects around the globe that elevate living standards and help governments overcome energy challenges.”

Forty-two countries submitted 89 proposals seeking financing from ADFD for the fifth funding cycle. Applications for the sixth funding cycle are being accepted until February 15.

In addressing Irena, the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi highlighted the local achievements that have contributed to reducing the cost of solar energy production on a global level.

“The 350-megawatt Abu Dhabi Solar Complex attracted the first record production cost bid of 2.42 US cents per kilowatt hour, while the 700-megawatt Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai received the second record bid of 7.3 US cents,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.

“The third, currently unbeaten record for the world's lowest production cost belongs to Masdar’s bid for the 300-megawatt Sakaka Solar Power Plant in Saudi Arabia at 1.79 US cents per kilowatt hour.

"Following this achievement, the UAE has decided to increase its target for the contribution of renewable energy to the national energy mix from 24 per cent to 27 per cent by 2021. The UAE Energy Plan 2050 aims to grow the proportion of clean energy to 50 per cent. Furthermore, the country seeks to produce 44 per cent of the clean energy from renewable sources as part of its commitment to sustainability across all sectors, especially the energy industry."

Rapid innovation and falling costs of renewable power generation and storage have "spurred investments, transforming renewable energy from niche to an economically and technically preferable solution," said Irena director general Adnan Amin, citing “Renewable Power Generation Costs” report released on Saturday.

“The shift from one energy system to another is not simple and, undoubtedly, it will take many years before the current system is transformed,” said Mr Amin. “But the transformation of the current energy system is gaining pace and is unstoppable. The developments during the past few years exceeded the expectations of even most optimistic supporters.”

Meanwhile, also on Saturday, the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (Dewa) approved its Dh26.417 billion budget for 2018 and also and an Independent Power Producer (IPP) project for concentrated solar power worth Dh14.2bn.