Keeping the Lights on in One of the World’s Least Electrified Countries
The success of a hybrid solar-diesel system in our Juba business demonstrates the huge impact solar could make on South Sudan’s wider development.
Acacia Village in Juba, South Sudan, is a piece of calm in a country characterised by conflict. The management team specialises in designing, delivering and operating camps and logistics services in the world’s most challenging environments, where armed violence and lawlessness, economic crisis and food insecurity are daily realities.
In one of the world’s least electrified country, keeping the lights on is a primary challenge. According to the International Energy Agency only 1% of South Sudan’s 12.5 million people had access to electricity in the country in 2017. Since then a new power plant in the capital city Juba has been built, but the prohibitive price per kWh, coupled with the instability of an infant grid system mean that most of Juba’s residents continue to rely on diesel generators.
In April 2018, Acacia installed a solar-diesel hybrid system to reduce its diesel consumption and carbon footprint. The system consists of a 120 kW (DC) solar plant tied to a synchronised generator stack of three 110 kVa diesel generators. It provides the compound with 24-hour power and, with the cost of diesel-generated electricity in Juba currently between 0.40 – 1.20 USD per kWh, also reduces Acacia’s power costs.
“Equator Energy’s system gives us complete reliability,” says Acacia Managing Director, James Montanana. “Trouble shooting is all done remotely, via an energy dashboard monitoring system developed in-house by Equator Energy, running on Microsoft’s PowerBI business intelligence platform. This visualizes the data transmitted from the on-site smart meters and allows for seamless remote access to the solar system in real time. There is no upfront capital outlay, instead Equator Energy finances and installs the system and recovers its costs through a monthly operating charge, which is cheaper than what we were previously paying for generator power.”
The success of the Acacia system has generated interest from other companies and humanitarian organisations in South Sudan. Renewable energy is easily achievable in one of the world’s sunniest countries, with Africa’s longest river running through its centre. Large scale hydro and solar power projects are in the pipeline, but the only new grid capacity to come online in recent years is a 33MW fossil fuel plant.
This is despite the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Renewables will be critical to countries like South Sudan fulfilling these environmental commitments while ensuring economic development. Integration of solar would also be cost competitive says Harry Minter, Equator Energy’s Managing Director:
“Solar could help the Republic of South Sudan ease daytime peak loads on diesel generation systems and reduce their consumption of fossil fuels. Reducing their reliance on volatile and expensive fossil fuels would build energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ease the energy cost burden on businesses and consumers, thereby increasing competitiveness and improving household incomes. It’s a clear win-win.”
A report by the United States Institute of Peace last year said solar energy could help decouple economic growth in South Sudan from the geopolitics of oil and gas. The affordability, scalability and ease of installation associated with solar mean it could make a dramatic positive impact fast, according to the report’s authors.
Set in a secure and private setting, Acacia Village is one of Juba’s safest and most comfortable residential compounds.
Equator Energy is a fully-integrated developer, investor and operator of solar power plants, specialising in emerging and frontier markets. Based in Nairobi, Equator Energy operates and develops grid-, diesel- and battery-tied solar power plants throughout Africa.