The Southern Africa Trade Hub and the U.S. Embassy in Gaborone, Botswana supported a delegation of eight renewable energy companies from Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa to attend the Annual Solar Power International 2012 Conference on September 10-14 in Orlando, Florida. Solar Power International (SPI) is the premier global solar energy conference and expo, designed to serve and advance the solar power industry.
These companies joined more than 21,000 attendees at the industry's largest, most comprehensive solar energy event in North America. The keynote speaker at this weeklong event was former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who expressed his commitment to supporting the expansion and use of solar and renewable energy—both in the U.S., and
in the world's emerging and frontier market regions.
The Southern Africa delegation included Solar Power, the oldest company dedicated to natural resource development in Botswana; BPC Lesedi, which removes barriers to the utilization of renewable and clean energy in Botswana; Energy Systems Group, a prominent supplier and installer of solar systems in Botswana, Alternative Energy Systems, one of the leading suppliers and installers of solar electrical systems in Namibia; and AE-AMD Renewable Energy, a South African company that identifies, evaluates, develops and operates renewable energy power plants. AE-AMD is currently building 10-megawatt and 20-megawatt plants in South Africa and has an over 60-megawatt pipeline for the next three years.
During the conference and exhibits, the executives from Southern Africa met with U.S. suppliers, distributors and manufacturers of solar energy products. Specifically, the executives met with Quanta Power Generation Group, which has resulted in discussions with AE-AMD for engineering, procurement, and construction services. In addition, discussions are already underway with ASP, a PV module manufacturer in the U.S. The Southern African executives identified suppliers of solar storage and are in advance discussions with Africa Energy Group in the U.S. to procure the solar systems. The executives also met in a special session with the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration and the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
There are many resources available to U.S. firms that are interested in exploring untapped market opportunities in Africa. For example, recently OPIC approved up to $250 million for the agency's first solar power project in South Africa, a 60-megawatt plant that will help diversify the country's electricity generation beyond its heavy coal concentration and in the process displace approximately 140,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in its first year alone. The OPIC financing will enable two U.S. companies, MEMC Electronic Materials and its subsidiary SunEdison, to construct and operate a solar photovoltaic plant in South Africa's Free State province. All electricity generated by the plant will be sold to the national grid through a power-purchase agreement. Coal-fired plants currently produce 84 percent of South Africa's electrical generation capacity. MEMC, based in St. Peters, Missouri, is a major global manufacturer of PV wafers and related products for the semiconductor and solar industries. Through its SunEdison subsidiary acquired in 2009, MEMC is also a developer of solar power projects and is a leading solar energy services provider.