Nigeria will soon record significant investment in renewable energy -Marcus Heal, PAN Africa Solar boss

In this exclusive interview with Marcus Heal, Chief Executive Officer, Pan Africa Solar – at Future Energy Nigeria, he will be part of a panel discussion on Solar Projects in Nigeria.
What is the background on Pan Africa Solar.
Pan Africa Solar is well known in Nigeria as the ‘front-runner’ solar developer and we are targeting commissioning our 75MW solar project in Katsina State in 2018. This project will provide electricity for more than 1-million Nigerian citizens at the present per capita usage.
Pan Africa Solar has gained unparalleled experience in developing a solar business where none existed and then developing bankable utility scale projects in Africa’s largest and most challenging country.
In addition to utility scale development and investment the Pan Africa Group has invested into the Home Scale Market and is working on an exclusive basis with BBOXX Limited in Nigeria. Our local business is called PAS BBOXX Limited and is one of the fastest growing Home Solar businesses in Nigeria.
Do you have any exciting projects in the power sector that you are currently involved in that you can share? In Nigeria in particular?
PAS is developing the 75MW Kankia Solar project which is located in Katsina State in northern Nigeria. This project is close to financial close and once commissioned it will be the largest solar power generation project in sub-Saharan Africa. The PPA was signed in July 2016 with the Nigeria Bulk Energy Trading Company (NBET). The project is being financed by a consortium of European DFIs.
Early this year Pan Africa Solar (PAS) launched the PAS BBOXX business which sells electricity to rural households for a monthly fee through a 50W solar home system. This is a PAYG solar service and we are looking to expand our customer base to about 20,000 by the end of 2018.
What in your view are the main challenges in the power sector in Nigeria right now? How can renewables be a unique contributing solution?
There are millions of people in Nigeria that have no access to the grid, and those that do experience frequent and sometimes lengthy outages.
There are also fundamental issues across the entire value chain of the Power sector which started to arise this year, which are now being addressed. The Federal Government understand these issues and have been working hand-in-hand with the international community to ensure that there is the necessary investment to fully address and solve these fundament challenges. One of the main challenges to face the Government will be how these important reforms are implemented, particularly the issue of tariffs.
The grid also suffers from an imbalance in where power is currently generated. Gas power plants are based in the south of Nigeria, and hydropower plants are based more centrally. Currently there is very little power generation in the north. Northern Nigeria has excellent irradiance levels and so utility-scale solar projects located in the north, not only can add MW’s to the grid, but will assist with the bringing some balancing to the grid as well as bringing socio-economic benefits to areas in the north.
In addition solar home systems can provide a large role in providing reliable and affordable electricity to the millions of households that are off-grid. This is why we launched our own solar home system business, PAS BBOXX, earlier this year.
And with regards to funding in particular?  
One of the major obstacles that the sector was facing, was the fact that the Generating Companies (GenCos), although receiving regular payments, were not getting invoices paid in full.
Fortunately this issue is now starting to be resolved, firstly through a significant drawdown facility that has been agreed between NBET and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), plus the comprehensive World Bank financed Power Sector Recover Programme (PSRP) will ensure that GenCos are paid in the short-term. We’re confident that through these interventions and other investments the sector issues will be resolved which will lead to a new wave of investments into the Nigerian Power Sectors.
What is your vision for the industry, particular with regards to renewable energy in Nigeria? 
What we want to build is a long-term sustainable business in Nigeria that provides electricity to the grid and to households and industry located off-grid. We believe the country has enormous potential for solar energy.
What is your advice to a prospective investor in the power sector in West Africa?
Determination and focus. Never give up! There are lots of organisations that want to invest in solar, seek them out and engage.
At Future Energy Nigeria, you will be part of a panel discussion on Solar Projects in Nigeria – can you give us a sneak preview of what will be your message will be at the event? 
We believe that Nigeria is on the brink of seeing significant investment in renewable energy.
Source: future Energy Nigeria

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