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Zambia to tender 500MW of solar

After setting a record low for Africa in a previous tender last year, the country is preparing to auction projects as part of a mandate it has granted to a World Bank unit.

The government of Zambia this week signed agreements for a second mandate with Scaling Solar, a World Bank programme, with a view to auctioning 500MW worth of solar projects in the coming months.

The tenders will be issued in successive rounds, with an initial 200MW auction set to kick-start with the release of requests for qualification in late March.

The move follows successful auctions held in May 2016 for two solar plants of up to 50MW each that attracted a range of 48 bidders, seven of which were shortlisted in June. The winning contenders included a consortium of US panel maker First Solar and NEOEN, a French group comprising Impala, Omnes Capital and Bpifrance; and Enel Green Power, the renewables arm of the Italian utility.

The former team offered to build the first plant, secured by a 25-year power purchase agreement, for a power sale price of just 6.02 cents per KWh – a record low for Africa. This latest mandate, undertaken in coordination with Zambia’s Ministry of Energy, is expected to comprise the structuring and tendering of up to four projects of 50MW to 100MW each.

Only about a fifth of Zambia’s population has access to power and the country often experiences up to 10 hours of daily load-shedding or blackouts, according to the World Bank.

Previous auctions had already happened under the mantle of Scaling Solar, which the multilateral describes as a “one-stop shop” providing technical assistance, templated documents, pre-approved financing, insurance products and guarantees. The unit receives financing from the US’s Power Africa initiative, the Netherlands, Denmark and DevCo, a multi-donor facility affiliated with the Private Infrastructure Development Group.

Scaling Solar now has more than 1.2GW of solar under development across four countries.