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Reliable Electricity and Energy Independence: Exporting Game Changing U.S. Developed Solar Energy Storage Technology to West Africa

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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Alistair Jessop, Senior Vice President, Development, SolarReserve

Guest blog post by Alistair Jessop, Senior Vice President, Development, SolarReserve

SolarReserve has participated in two extremely well-organized and worthwhile business development trade missions led by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The first mission was in March to the Middle East, focusing on export opportunities for U.S. companies in the infrastructure sector, including renewable energy. Based on the great success of the Middle East mission, the company enthusiastically joined Secretary Pritzker on a second mission – this time the destination was West Africa.

SolarReserve is a leading worldwide developer of utility-scale solar and hybrid power projects which include advanced solar thermal technology. We have more than $1.8 billion of projects in construction and operation, of which $800 million are in Southern Africa. Our aim for the West Africa trade mission was to better understand the renewable energy goals, requirements and timelines of both Ghana and Nigeria with a hope to form relationships with key decision makers and form strong long-term joint venture relationships with local companies.

SolarReserve’s world-leading, US-developed, patented solar thermal technology with integrated molten salt storage has the potential to provide both Ghana and Nigeria a cost-effective, reliable, on-demand, zero emission supply of electricity. This solar thermal technology (which can be delivered either alone or coupled with photovoltaics), can provide a cost effective 24/7 reliable alternative to fossil fuel generation with the enormous benefit of zero emissions.  This technology could make a huge difference in countries across Africa, with regular power cuts affecting both Ghana and Nigeria’s national productivity as well as the lifestyles of those living in these countries. It’s not surprising we find boundless enthusiasm in the region for reliable renewable energy alternatives.

The high calibre of the meetings was incredible, with access to top level government officials and decision makers. One particular high point during the mission in Ghana was meeting John Dramani Mahama, the Ghanaian President, where the group were given the opportunity to ask direct and frank questions - and received clear and fair responses. It was remarkable to have this level of access to the President and a number of the cabinet ministers, and to be able to talk frankly about business opportunities and issues. We left these meetings with confidence in doing business in Ghana.

Further meetings with the Ministry of Energy and some B2B meetings topped off an incredible trip in Ghana, yet there was still more to come in Nigeria.

This stage of the trip started with a dinner hosted by the Consulate General and with the captains of Nigerian industry - a fascinating opportunity to discuss topical issues and to meet some of the highest level representatives of the country. The next day we had many impromptu B2B meetings which introduced us to yet more fantastic contacts, many of which were orchestrated by OPIC, EXIM, US Aid and USTDA, among others. The whirlwind tour in Nigeria continued with meetings with the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Power, both of whom were very much open for business and committed to continuing to grow Nigeria as the economic power house of Africa. Further in-depth meetings with the Ministry of Power’s team impressed greatly with a very positive engagement and keenness to work with us to take the country’s renewables program forward.

Our conclusions? We need to get moving fast and start transactions in these vibrant and growing markets.

We would like to thank everyone who has supported this initiative from President Obama, who had the initial vision, to the Secretary of Commerce, who led us into these markets with such presence and commitment. Above all to the public servants who are the unsung commercial heroes whose, hard work, utter dedication and professionalism in so many countries around the world makes a material difference to the chances of U.S. industry being successful in these new and challenging markets.

To all the people in Ghana and Nigeria that have committed their precious time to us: a huge thank you, and we are looking forward to opening business operations in the coming months.

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Doing Business With Africa

Instead of leaving the market to Chinese, U.S. should move as quickly as possible to sign busness deals in the region before it is too late. There are condireable needs in the energy sector, and these opportunities must be ceased, especially when people have more preference for U.S technologies.

Infrastructure

I would also like to see U.S companies involved in roads and bridges constructions not only in the West Africa region but the whole Africa. It pains me to see this market being dominated by Chinese.