| WASHINGTON, June 13
WASHINGTON, June 13 A World Bank-led solar power
auction in Zambia has set a new low-cost benchmark for Africa,
with two development groups winning backing to build generating
plants in the next year, the international lender said on
Neoen SAS, First Solar Inc and Enel Green Power
were the winners of the initial auction for the
"Scaling Solar" program, the World Bank Group's International
Finance Corp said in a statement.
France's Neoen and U.S.-based First Solar jointly bid 6.02
cents per kilowatt hour and will build a 45-megawatt solar plant
in the African nation. Enel Green Power, a subsidiary of Italy's
largest power utility, Enel, bid 7.84 cents per
kilowatt hour and will build a 28-megawatt plant.
Those bids compare with recent solar contract prices of over
7 cents per kilowatt hour in South Africa and up to nearly 12
cents in India.
The two new solar plants are expected to expand Zambia's
generating capacity by 5 percent, easing the strain of drought
that has reduced the country's hydroelectric output, the IFC
"These are the lowest solar power tariffs seen to date in
Africa, and among the lowest prices for solar power anywhere in
the world - a game changer for Zambia and other countries in the
region facing electricity shortages," IFC Chief Executive
Officer Philippe Le Houérou said in a statement.
The World Bank program aims to help governments deliver
cheap and clean energy by helping them run competitive auctions
and reducing investment risks. It includes a full suite of World
Bank products and services, including IFC financing and advice
as well as guarantees from the group's Multilateral Investment
Guarantee Agency arm.
The IFC said Senegal and Madagascar also have signed up to
run Scaling Solar tenders, which are expected to move to the
prequalification phase in the coming months.
The program, which hopes to develop one gigawatt of solar
power in the next three years, also is supported by the U.S.
Agency for International Development and the Dutch and Danish
The Zambian auction initially attracted interest from 48
development groups, seven of which submitted final proposals.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao)