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Burundi celebrates first grid-connected solar farm and pledges to grow capacity

President Ndashimiye of Burundi attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Gigawatt Global’s solar power plant in Mubuga, Burundi, the nation’s first utility-scale solar field.

During the event, President Ndashimiye and renewable developer Gigawatt Global CEO Yosef Abramowitz announced their intention to double the generating capacity near the currently operating plant.

The 7.5MW solar PV plant near the village of Mubuga has been in operation since May 2021 and now provides over 10% of Burundi’s electricity.

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The Gigawatt Global solar plant was built over a period of six years and resulted from a multinational effort.

The project was financed via a consortium including Inspired Evolution via its Evolution II Fund, the UK government-funded Renewable Energy Performance Platform, and Gigawatt Global. Political risk insurance and refinancing of construction debt are being led by the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

Additional support for the project was provided by the Energy and Environment Partnership (EEP – a fund set up by Finland, the UK and Austria) and the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO). Engineering, procurement and construction services were provided by French firm Voltalia.

Gigawatt Global Burundi SA managing director, Michael Fichtenberg, said: “This project demonstrates how the world community can realize shared development goals by utilizing international financing facilities best suited for frontier and emerging markets.”

Historic ribbon cutting by Burundi President, Évariste Ndayishimiye, for the Burundi 7.5MW solar field. Gigawatt Global CEO, Yosef Abramowitz, to his left, inaugurates his 18th solar field in 17 years.

The plant not only boosts the country’s renewables output but also supports local vulnerable communities. It will be coupled with a small solar-powered business and community center, the Energy Hub, for which land and funding are being secured. The centre will promote women’s empowerment, as well as youth education and employment programmes.

President Ndashimiye said at the ceremony: “Today we celebrate economic and climate progress in Burundi, which is open to direct foreign investment to catalyze economic growth for our people. We invite the international community to follow the lead of our partners at Gigawatt Global, Inspired Evolution, REPP and DFC and develop projects, especially in the agricultural sector.

“We have excellent soil for tea and coffee and an industrious population. And thanks to this solar field, and my agreement to double the size of it, we have increased energy security that can reliably run agro-businesses.”

According to the intergovernmental initiative SE4ALL, Burundi is one of the least electrified countries in the world due to insufficient power supply. However, the country has great solar power potential as it receives around 2000 kWh/m² per year, equivalent to the best European regions.

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