Aug 10, 2018

Lesotho 20MW PV Plant - Kick-off !

Making PPA signing official with LEC.
Making PPA signing official with LEC.

Hello again to all of you,

I am writing this month with some very exciting news - for us as an organization but also for Lesotho as a whole! 

Since my last update we have been busy with quite a lot of "behind the scenes" work, the tough negotiations and contracting that will put financing in place to make projects happen.  I am very proud to say that the results of this is, first and foremost, two huge steps forward on the solar photovoltaic power plant (named "Neo 1" - in Sesotho "Neo" means "gift").  One of these is an initialed agreement with the Lesotho Electricity Company, guaranteeing that they will purchase all electricity we generate -- this is needed for any investors (or banks) to feel secure in putting their money behind the project.  (You'll see the "signing ceremony" in the photos!) The second is a completed agreement with two Norweigan groups to Jointly Develop the plant -- i.e., they are bringing both private equity funds and engineering expertise to join the team and make this project a reality.

The ink is still just drying on these agreements, but our team is already hard at work... next steps relate to working with the neighboring community to secure land rights, conducting environmental safety assessments, and securing the necessary permitting from the government.  Construction is still likely 6-9 months away, but we are very excited to have the process under way!

Another very exciting aspect of this deal is the fact that OnePower has committed its profits from the 20MW power plant to accomplishing our mission to build community minigrids in Lesotho.  This first milestone has already allowed us to put forward the cost-share required to receive a Feasibility Study grant from the European Union Electri-FI program ("Electrification Financing Initiative").  The result of this study, which should be completed by late 2018, will pave the pathway to procuring bank loans needed to scale up our minigrids program.  We have already taken the preliminary results of this study to potential funders, with positive response.  I am looking forward to sharing more on this in future reports!

My apologies for the absence of exciting field photos in this report - it's pretty chilly in Lesotho!  And though office work is not as photogenic, we're thrilled with what we have to share and the upcoming work from the field that it will enable...

Thank you again to all of you who are along for this crazy ride with us - it's been a busy 2018 so far and still much to come.

Best,

Matt

More than 150 pages of initialing!!
More than 150 pages of initialing!!
May 14, 2018

Welcome to our Energy Access Fellows and Interns!

Onepower team preps PV site at Ha Makebe
Onepower team preps PV site at Ha Makebe

Hello again everyone!

I am very pleased to be sending this update, as Lesotho transitions out of summer and at the same time we are starting to welcome our "summer interns" from the northern hemisphere.

It's been a very exciting past few months - you've all been following along with us as we are bringing Ha Makebe's pilot minigrid online, and the team has been putting the final whistles and bells on the system as we await final authorization to move the generation infrastructure into place. (You'll see in the attached photos the team at Ha Makebe prepping the PV site and at headquarters testing the electronics for automated backup power and online error reporting.)

At the same time this year we are spinning up an extensive fellowship and internship program - between 5-10 individuals - led by our new Operations Manager Tamer (some of you may remember him from previous reports - he spent more than a year in Lesotho as our Project Manager a few years back). The fellowship program is welcoming international students from three different countries to Lesotho during 2018 to work on projects as varied as measuring development impacts of minigrid installation, outreach to career development programs for women, engineering design, and electrical system modeling, with individuals at every stage of education from undergraduate level to post-PhD. The internship program recruits domestic engineering students for 6-month attachments - often but not always as part of their degree program - to focus on projects like design and deployment of smart meters for studying electricity usage as well as giving interns insights into careers in the energy sector.

In the background we are making steady progress toward permitting and contracting for our larger on-grid and off-grid projects, kicking off a Feasibility study for Minigrid Development in Lesotho in early May with support from the EU's ElectriFI program! I am looking forward to sharing more on that in the next update.

As always I would like to reiterate our gratitude to all of you for your ongoing interest, and in many cases financial support. We couldn't do what we do without so many cheerleaders!

Until next time,

-Matt

Testing control electronics at headquarters
Testing control electronics at headquarters
Feb 12, 2018

OnePower Lesotho Spinout & Exciting New Projects!

Matt at community pitso for PV power plant
Matt at community pitso for PV power plant

Hello again to all of you,

I hope that 2018 has been treating everyone well, and we are excited to be sending you news from Lesotho! Our team has been incredibly busy these past months working on two big projects, and I’d like to give all of you a sneak peak of where we’re planning to go during the rest of 2018.

The first major project is the completion of the minigrid at Ha Makebe, which you have all been watching from afar for the past year or so. We are doing some last upgrades on the energy system (increasing the capacity to account for a few extra connections at a school and church in the village), aiming for installation within the next few months – a photo shows you the new larger-capacity PV tracker currently in validation at our headquarters at ATS in Maseru.

In parallel with this pilot system installation, however, behind-the-scenes we have been laying the groundwork for a roll-out of 25 minigrids across Lesotho over the next 2-3 years. This will be an incredible investment in Lesotho and improvement to the services experienced by rural Basotho, and we are thrilled to be in the last stages of fundraising for this effort. The pen hasn’t yet hit the paper, but I am hopeful that in my next announcement I will have more news on this front!

The other immense effort we have been undertaking for the past 18 months is the development of a proposal for Lesotho’s very first utility-scale solar power plant – a project the government conceived of and sent out for bid in 2016 and for which our team was selected as Preferred Bidder! Since that initial designation we have been building up a team, including internationally experienced funding and engineering firms with experience building similar plants across southern Africa and the globe, to bring the best possible design proposal to the government. In parallel we have been working with the communities in the area where this plant will be located – you’ll see me at the most recent Pitso (community meeting) in one of the photos – to ensure that the energy-independence win for Lesotho is also a win for the communities living near the site. It has been an interesting, complex, and very fun process so far, and I am also looking forward to sending updates as we move through the final contracting stages with the government so you’ll know when to keep an eye out for construction to start.

As part of these market-driven efforts and successes, in January 2018 we have finally officially spun-out 1Power Lesotho – the for-profit enterprise that will be driving this work forward. The 1Power inaugural team is built of the hard working individuals who have been helping STG in this direction for so many years, and wearing my STG Director hat I have to say I am immensely proud to finally have our hard work incubating these ideas and building the pipeline come to fruition in this way! And under my new 1Power Lesotho Director hat, I am very, very excited for things to come.

Independent of this change of name, I am looking forward to continuing to share news of our progress with all of you. Thank you again for the support you have provided over the years to help us get to where we are today!

Very best,

Matt

Upgraded PV system for Ha Makebe minigrid
Upgraded PV system for Ha Makebe minigrid
Upgrades on the vehicle - and 1Power branding!
Upgrades on the vehicle - and 1Power branding!

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