19 June 2019

Africa: Symbion Power Announces Low-Cost, Mini-Hydro Pilot in Rwanda and Geothermal Plant in Kenya During U.S. 'Prosper Africa' Rollout

Photo: Symbion Power
Abe Schneider, Co-Founder and CTO, Natel Energy (left) with Paul Hinks, CEO Symbion Power announcing the new MyHydro platform and first pilot in Rwanda.
press release

Maputo — Symbion Power is proud to announce two keystone investments in Africa in conjunction with the rollout of the U.S. Government’s ‘Prosper Africa’ initiative today at the Corporate Council on Africa’s 2019 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Maputo, Mozambique.

A collaboration between two U.S. companies, New York based Symbion Power and San Francisco based Natel Energy will pilot a new off-grid, low-head, low-cost renewable, mini-hydro platform called MyHydro in Rwanda. The two firms intend to implement MyHydro across Sub Saharan Africa where they will sell low cost electricity to underserved communities.

Symbion Power also announced a new investment with Vital Capital, an impact investment fund, to build, own and operate a 35MW geothermal plant in Kenya’s Rift Valley. The project will be financed with shareholders equity and debt financing from TDB Bank, an African based Development Finance Institution.

Both investments promise to supply much-needed electricity to power economic growth as well as create hundreds of new jobs in the US and Africa.

The Prosper Africa initiative seeks to open markets for American businesses, grow Africa's middle class, promote youth employment opportunities and improve the business climate, to offer support to U.S. companies for the development of closer economic ties with Africa. Symbion’s focus has always been on the transfer of skills and creating mutually beneficial opportunities in building power infrastructure in Africa.

Lack of reliable, non-intermittent and affordable supply of electricity threatens the developmental goals of the African continent.  MyHydro is a new low-cost, mini-grid platform that combines proven engineering  with innovative American technology. Focused on rural communities, MyHydro will provide affordable, renewable energy where it is needed most.  MyHydro aims to deploy a minimum of 150 installations of  distributed mini-hydro generation capacity units and associated mini-grids in Africa by 2025, serving approximately 1 million people.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that so many people in rural Africa still don’t have electricity connections and the ability to undertake industrial activities, said Paul Hinks, CEO, Symbion Power.  So today we’re renewing our commitment to implement both on-grid and off-grid power solutions that are very low cost and affordable. Kenya’s geothermal resources are enormous, and this type of energy provides continuous electricity supply at a cost of 7 cents per kWh.  MyHydro is a new platform we are launching that will also provide low cost power to towns and villages that have no electricity supply at the moment.  MyHydro can be easily integrated into the national grid system in the future.”

Mr. Hinks continued, “Neither geothermal power nor off-grid mini-hydro are new. But a platform like MyHydro, incorporating new American turbine technology and widespread market coverage in Africa, will be a powerful addition to the many other players in the off-grid sector.”

Abe Schneider, CTO and President of Natel Energy, stated, “We are thrilled to partner with Symbion Power to bring sustainable hydropower to Africa. Natel’s mission is to unlock new, distributed, sustainable and reliable hydropower at scale by reducing total installed cost while improving environmental performance. Our fish friendly Restoration Hydro Turbine delivers high performance, safe fish passage and reduced installed cost. Our digital platform for site screening and flow forecasting reduces development time and cost and will provide the water intelligence for the MyHydro platform to optimize operations. This also paves the way to enable MyHydro to be integrated into the national grid systems in the future. We are excited to work with the Rwandan Government, RDB, and REG on our first pilot project and thank the Rwandan Government for its initial support and hope to have an enduring relationship built on success.”

Symbion is working in close collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Rwanda Energy Group (REG) for the development of the pilot project.

About Symbion Power
Symbion Power is one of the largest US investors in the power sector in Africa. Since 2014 it has invested in 1,378 MW of installed generating capacity in Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and Madagascar. The company supplies electricity to some of the world’s most critically underserved regions. As an Independent Power Producer (IPP) that develops, builds and operates large-scale generation, transmission and distribution projects throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, we have constructed over 4,000 kms of Extra High Voltage (EHV) transmission and distribution lines and associated substations. At Symbion, we understand that circumstances on the ground change quickly and have built a dynamic organization that is always ready to adapt and react. Symbion Power is based in New York City and has offices across Africa. 

About Natel Energy
Natel Energy is a leading innovator in distributed, sustainable hydropower solutions. We are changing the way hydropower is built and operated, with the Restoration Hydro Turbine and Flow Forecast. Our solutions are end-to-end technologies that provide cost-competitive carbon-neutral energy, distributed water storage and environmental benefit. Natel Energy is based in San Francisco and has remote teams in Boston, New York, Portland, and Bangkok.  

About the U.S.-Africa Business Summit
The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) is honored to co-host this year’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit with the Government of Mozambique June 18-21, 2019 at the Joaquim Chissano International Conference Center, in Maputo, Mozambique. Since its inception in 1997, the U.S.-Africa Business Summit has been considered an essential conference for U.S. and African private sector executives, government officials and multilateral stakeholders interested in doing business in Africa. 

Contact:
Zelda Weitz
+27 (82) 872-5995‬
zelda.weitz@symbion-power.com

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