| Dec 26, 2018
Ha Makebe Pilot Solar Microgrid - REPP visit
Hi Everyone - I just wanted to share excerpts from a letter to our dedicated staff in Lesotho and express gratitude for all the support that enabled us to make 2018 our best year yet!
Dear 1PWR team,
Happy holidays and seasons greetings! I hope you are all relaxing with family and friends, enjoying the time off and recharging batteries for an exciting 2019 ahead.
Looking back, we came a long way in 2018 and I wanted to share a few highlights of what we achieved due to your hard work and perseverance:
- Initialed Power Purchase Agreement with LEC – this moment in June represented the culmination of a process that started way back in late 2015 when a freshly incorporated 1PWR submitted an expression of interest to bid on Lesotho’s first solar Independent Power Producer tender, which we named "Neo 1." Although 1PWR consortium became the “preferred bidder” back in 2017, the PPA initialing was the point where we locked in the deal with LEC, after more than a year of negotiations and navigating countless hurdles. The PPA is not the end of the story – before attracting the debt finance for the Neo 1 project we still need to negotiate a “support agreement” with the Finance Ministry (detailing the government’s position on issues of taxation, expropriation, and guarantee of LEC obligations under the PPA), but initialing the PPA was a major milestone that cemented the credibility of the Neo 1 proponents.
- Neo 1 Joint Development Agreement with Scatec Solar and Norfund – once the PPA was initialed we were able to satisfy the conditions of the JDA with the equity financiers for the Neo 1 project. In practice what this meant was that after several lean years 1PWR could start getting paid by its partners for developing Neo 1 and with these cash flows we began to chart a course towards stabilizing our finances.
- EU ElectriFI co-financed minigrid feasibility study – as I write this the consultants from Cadmus, Black & Veatch, INR, and Generate Advisory are submitting the final deliverables under the feasibility study kicked off earlier this year. This study was a condition of the REPP loan but most importantly it showed that our approach is fundamentally sound and the minigrids project is feasible and financeable. In the process of engaging with the consultants we learned a lot (in technical and environmental and social aspects especially) and improved how we implement and organize ourselves.
- Commissioning of the Ha Makebe pilot microgrid – live testing at Ha Makebe demonstrated that we could generate and distribute electricity from a solar power station and wire network designed and built by 1PWR. Testing of the Iometer smart meter and M-Pesa payment process validated that we could close the loop on prepaid transactions, which is core to the business model of a minigrid. 1PWR is a team with a deep technical capacity and the “Beta” pilot at Ha Makebe vividly showcases, more than any proposal or presentation could, our commitment and ability to solve tough engineering challenges in the pursuit of rural electrification.
- 1PWR Smart Meter v1.0 – in mid 2018 the first prototype “Kinzer” meters rolled off the “production line” and were installed as power monitors to feed data into our uGrid system design process; this marked the first step towards an in-house solution for metering and payment linked to a 1PWR customer transaction database.
- LNDC factory lease agreement – After 10 years of incubation at Appropriate Technology Services in Khubetsoana STG/1PWR said goodbye to our hosts with a braai in December 2018. Earlier in August 1PWR signed an agreement with LNDC to rent 1000m2 of factory and office space in Ha Thetsane, which will become 1PWR’s new headquarters and production facility when we move in early 2019 following renovations.
- Inaugural class of Energy Access Fellows – our first experiment with this program has been a boon to 1PWR and endeavors to provide a fulfilling growth experience for the fellows. Fellows have worked in various roles throughout the organization to “up our game” in financial management, environmental and social engagement, data processing, engineering design, and hardware and software development, and we look forwards to keeping in touch with our “alumni” and augmenting our team with new fellows goings forwards.
The list could go on and on: from the little ways we improved our administrative processes to running a major tender process for disbursement of AfDB funds, we checked off tasks large and small from our to do list. We wrote countless letters, SOPs and contracts; developed tablet apps to digitize our site surveys; crafted a new website (going live soon!), ported legacy uGrid code into the latest Python build, negotiated a compensation package with Neo 1 landowners in Mafeteng; developed blueprints for an IEC compliant PV tracker design; and throughout everything tirelessly lobbied the Lesotho government to buy into our initiatives – and so on and so forth! All year long there were battles to be fought and problems to be solved, and we survived and thrived because you all rose to the challenge.
It was never easy and let’s be honest - 2019 won’t be easy either, but I am confident that the list of achievements we look back on a year from now will be every bit as impressive as what you made happen in 2018. As long as we continue to believe in ourselves and each other, this team can realize our shared dream of bringing solar electricity to rural communities, starting in 2019 in Lesotho and pioneering new regions for decades to come.
Wishing you all a happy new year in 2019! Best,
Replacing head gasket on the SURF
Thanks ATS for hosting us for 10 Years!!!