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US agency grants $360m to boost overseas renewables

An agency of the US government has approved $360 million in funding for two overseas renewables development schemes, in an effort to bring Western-built technologies to the developing world.

Granted by the US government’s development finance institution, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the first round of funding will see $175 million awarded to two new investment funds that will bring the latest renewable energy technologies to emerging markets in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The award will help to lay the foundation for the sector's growth in those regions for years to come, OPIC said.

OPIC approved $125 million in financing to US fund TPG Alternative & Renewable Technologies Partners to invest in companies matching the renewable technologies from the United States and Europe to markets in Latin America and Southeast Asia. TPG will also support the adoption of renewable technologies that will have a lower environmental impact than the traditional methods of energy generation used today.

The Board also approved $50 million for the GEF Africa Growth Fund, which will invest in environment-related energy infrastructure across Sub-Saharan Africa in order to improve the efficiency of energy and agribusiness production in the region.

"Taking the latest renewable energy technologies and applying them to emerging markets is one of the great development challenges of the coming years. Be it converting local biomass to high-value products, improving energy storage, or making use of state-of-the-art building materials, the technologies invested in by this fund will represent an important step toward meeting that challenge," said OPIC chief executive Elizabeth Littlefield.

Rapid economic growth across Africa has resulted in a significant electricity shortage that requires a dependence on costly diesel generators or improvised kerosene lighting. The fund will target investments in clean electricity generation, energy management systems, distribution infrastructure and energy efficiency technologies and services.

In the second round of funding, OPIC awarded a further $185 million for the construction two 20 MW solar power plants in Peru, the second 20MW duo financed by OPIC in a year. Last June the organisation approved $123 million for the first two 20MW plants.

The new Tacna and Panamericana plants, located in southern Peru, will produce nearly 100 million kWh of electricity annually, which OPIC described as “a significant step forward in the renewable energy sector for a country facing one of the lowest rural electrification rates in Latin America”.

"The Peruvian government, in partnership with the private sector, continues to make great strides in bringing electricity to the majority of its population. This project will enable Peru to take advantage of its great solar potential in order to increase energy access in rural, poorer areas where the need is greatest," said Littlefield.
 

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