Life at Lekela – Richard Avery, Business Development Director, Lekela

Lekela is an international organisation, with our people based in Senegal, Egypt, South Africa and the UK. We want to shine a light on the amazing work our people do across Africa and in Europe and hear directly from our employees on what life at Lekela is really like.

We’re speaking to different employees across Lekela to get an insight into the type of work they’re doing and the impact it is having. This time, we hear from Richard Avery, Business Development Director at Lekela. Read on below to learn more about what Richard’s role involves!

Tell us about your role at Lekela?

My role as Business Development Director is to secure new growth opportunities for Lekela as well as progressing our existing pipeline of projects in development towards construction. This includes forming partnerships with project developers in our target countries, negotiating agreements to sell power to utilities or industries and securing financing for our projects. Following Lekela’s acquisition by Infinity Power, I am looking forward to being part of an exciting period of growth alongside our new shareholders and partners.

Can you tell us a little about a project you’re currently working on?

I’m currently leading the development of a 40MW / 160MWh battery energy storage project near our existing project, Parc Eolien Taiba N’Diaye, in Senegal. The project aims to be the first in the country and one of the largest in Africa. Large scale battery storage is a very exciting sector that’s quite new to Africa. It can help accelerate the adoption of renewable energy by balancing variations in supply and demand, meaning that there is less need for fossil fuel plants to operate as spinning reserve. As Senegal is already a leader in renewable energy adoption in West Africa, the battery project will help the country to go further with renewables adoption.

You have extensive experience working in Business Development Projects across Africa. What do you consider when looking into projects to develop?

First and foremost, we look to see whether a proposed project makes sense for the country. It has to deliver tangible benefits: increasing supply and reducing the cost of electricity for consumers. It’s also really important to understand the regulatory environment and how the project is viewed by the stakeholders in Government. Major projects like those that Lekela invests in typically require the support of the host Government to be able to raise finance and so they have to be high priority projects for Government in order to succeed.

What is it like seeing a project go from development to operations?

Fantastic! Typically power and infrastructure projects spend quite a while on the drawing board before construction starts, so as a developer you will have visited the site many times and imagined how the project might look when it’s built. Seeing the project finally coming alive with construction activity is really exciting. It’s also great to see that a project you have worked on has created skilled jobs for local people. As a developer you typically hand a project over to operational colleagues during construction, but I often check to see how much power projects I’ve worked on are producing. It’s very rewarding to see that your work has had a tangible impact!

What are the biggest, or most surprising, challenges or opportunities you’ve faced on a project at Lekela?

Prior to joining Lekela I did not have much experience with battery technology, so it’s been great learning more. The battery market globally is undergoing a very rapid period of expansion with electric vehicle demand growing exponentially and government incentives stimulating demand for utility scale systems in many markets, resulting in both instability in the pricing of raw materials and finished battery systems. It’s been both interesting and challenging bringing this technology into new markets in Africa.

What do you enjoy the most about working at Lekela?

What I love most about my work is the variety. In a given week I can be meeting community leaders at a remote site one day, meeting with Government Ministers the next, then negotiating a contract with the local utility, meeting equipment suppliers or financiers, then back at the office researching new markets or reviewing a financial model the next.

I’ve previously held roles in management consulting, engineering and project finance banking. I love combining the skills I’ve developed, and the expertise of my colleagues, to work towards our shared goal of delivering renewable energy to African consumers.