Africa Energy Forum Interview with Chris Antonopoulos

Ahead of the Africa Energy Forum 2019 taking place in Lisbon, CEO of Lekela Chris Antonopoulos, answers questions on the Africa energy landscape and what the Forum means to him.

  • As a leader in Africa’s renewables space, what advice would you give to new companies looking to develop projects on the continent? 
    • Be a long-term operator with a long-term outlook, not just for favourable returns, but also to provide lasting benefits to the communities you operate in. We call this a social licence to operate. It is important to engage with the community from day one, taking an approach that is as local as possible. Then, work with the local communities to create work and promote skills. Organisations would do well to establish a strong governance framework which has the correct structures in place to make for a more resilient, more accountable business. Finally, have patience. Doing business can take longer than in other markets, so patience is a must.
  • What opportunities do you see for solar in Egypt over the next 5 years?
    • Lekela’s initial pipeline of projects are focused on wind, but our platform has been built to develop, own and operate both wind and solar assets. Solar is an opportunity we continue to explore in various African markets. We also see great opportunity in wind, however, which we think is equal to the solar opportunity in Egypt. We recently signed a Power Purchase Agreement with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company and the New and Renewable Energy Authority for our wind farm project in the Gulf of Suez, which will take advantage of Egypt’s world class wind resource.
  • Which countries in Africa are a focus for Lekela this year and why?
    • Our current portfolio includes more than 1,300 megawatts across projects in Egypt, Ghana, Senegal and South Africa, where we have built and now operate three wind farms with two more sites in construction. In the past year, construction has commenced on Senegal’s first ever wind farm, we have signed a Power Purchase Agreement with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company and the New Renewable Energy Authority, and our project in Ghana is in late stage development. When investing in countries, we always look for a strong regulatory process, a stable investment environment and growth within a country, as this means demand will grow too.
  • Where do you think the main areas for investment will be in the Africa power sector in the next 5 years?
    • Africa is a dynamic content, and we are seeing greater levels of investment and innovation, which we expect will continue to grow. I think we’ll see much wider investment across Africa in solar PV and onshore wind in the next five years. I also think that battery storage could well become a viable option soon, particularly with the cost coming down and the battery life extending. There is an increasing need for the grid to have stability and clearly batteries will become a more economical and popular solution. Finally, I think there will be an increase in mini-grid and off-grid solutions due to the inefficiency of trying to extend on-grid systems to rural areas.
  • How do you think the Africa Energy Forum adds value to the sector?
    • The Africa Energy Forum is a major event in our calendar, bringing together a wide range of industry stakeholders to share their knowledge and experience and all with a common purpose: to provide power to Africa. The AEF is also one of the only events that gets attendance from senior officials, so it is also a great opportunity for Lekela to get face time with them.
  • What are your objectives for the 21st Africa Energy Forum?
    • To meet other stakeholders from across the energy sector and learn about the latest technologies and developments that are being implemented across the continent. I am also looking forward to sharing Lekela’s progress over the past year and contributing to discussions on the opportunities and challenges facing the sector in Africa.