Renewable energy solutions for electrifying AngolaNovember 13, 2023
Elisabete Alves, board chairperson of MCA Angola and COO for international infrastructure of MCA Group, talks to The Energy Year about how the company’s footprint has evolved in the Angolan market, the next milestones for the solar projects it is involved in and its rural electrification projects. MCA is a high-tech engineering and consulting company.
How has the footprint of MCA evolved in the Angolan market?
Over our 25 years of history, the group’s journey has been quite remarkable. During its initial decade, the group primarily focused on infrastructure-related projects, which served as the foundation for its expansion into international markets, including Angola, where it has been present since 2006.
In Angola, the MCA Group has made substantial contributions, particularly in the construction of roads. However, around 2017 a pivotal shift in strategy occurred when the group recognised the importance of the energy transition.
At this juncture, the organisation sought to redefine its legacy and positively impact future generations. The new mission was to engage in projects that could profoundly affect communities and significantly improve people’s lives, specifically through the pursuit of renewable energy solutions.
MCA Group’s journey in Angola has thus evolved from its early infrastructure-oriented projects to a more profound commitment to sustainable and impactful endeavours in the renewable energy sector. These projects have not only showcased the group’s expertise but have also helped shape a more sustainable and empowered future for the communities we serve.
Our recent venture into rural electrification, which is designed to provide energy access to communities in the eastern regions of Angola, is a testament to our commitment to making a positive economic and social impact. This project is set to reach multiple provinces with 48 mini-grid networks and will further solidify the group’s mission of enhancing the lives of those they serve.
What are the next milestones for the solar parks project that MCA is involved in?
The solar parks of Biópio and Baía Farta, which have a total capacity of approximately 290 MW, have already been successfully delivered and are a significant part of our 370-MW portfolio.
The remaining 80 MW are divided among five projects, with three in the eastern region that are well advanced and on track for completion by the first quarter of 2024. These three projects contribute around 60 MW to our portfolio.
The other two projects, which account for the remaining 20 MW, have now entered their more intensive phases, and we anticipate their completion no later than early 2025.
How has the role of the MCA Group evolved from the solar generation Baía Farta project to the more recent rural electrification project?
Our involvement primarily centred on the engineering aspect, including technology selection and material procurement, and the execution of the construction phase, which, I must emphasise, was no small feat and entailed substantial effort.
However, a significant shift occurred with the more recent rural electrification project. This time around, we assumed full responsibility for the entire project, from inception to completion. The motivation behind this shift was rooted in our recognition of the pressing needs within the Angolan government’s electrification efforts.
The coastal areas of the country enjoy relatively better electrification rates, but the interior and eastern regions have faced severe deficits, with the majority of the electrical infrastructure concentrated in the north.
In response, we strategically designed a plan to create 48 fully renewable off-grid sites and to extend the grid selectively to the provinces of Malanje and Bié to electrify another 12 sites in proximity to the northern region. In areas where conventional grid extension wasn’t feasible, such as in the east, we innovatively devised off-grid renewable projects.
Our goal was to establish a 100% renewable and entirely autonomous energy production system, complemented by efficient battery storage for guaranteed power supply day and night. This tailored approach was specifically crafted to meet the community’s current needs and sustainably serve them for the next two decades and is the ideal blend of economic viability and clean energy.
What can we expect from MCA’s future in Angola over the next two years?
In the next two years, MCA’s trajectory in Angola will align closely with the government’s commitment to enhancing the nation’s industrial, agricultural and tourism sectors. The overarching strategy emphasises the crucial role of infrastructure, especially reliable energy and water supply, in facilitating this development.
Our focus is on bolstering the agricultural sector, not only by increasing its industrialisation but also by enhancing its management practices. Additionally, the tourism sector demands robust and high-quality infrastructure, including road networks and connections between provinces.
Consequently, our primary thrust remains in highway infrastructure development, as there are ongoing needs in the country that warrant attention.
Furthermore, we are making a substantial commitment to renewable energy projects, in line with our broader strategy. Angola already boasts an impressive renewable energy component in its energy matrix, primarily derived from water resources. However, we recognise the potential for solar energy to complement this matrix and provide essential energy security.
MCA aims to contribute significantly to the country’s solar generation capacity, leveraging the expertise gained from our ongoing solar projects. This project will be closely intertwined with efficient water resource management. While Angola is rich in water resources, changing climate patterns necessitate comprehensive water management.
Our vision extends to associating the energy supply with the water supply. This is a commitment we are already pursuing. We aspire to bring both essential resources to remote communities, and we emphasise the critical importance of water, particularly for human consumption.
Our future in Angola will also revolve around optimising water resources for agricultural purposes through intelligent irrigation systems, thereby ensuring sustainable water usage in agriculture. In the long term, we intend to become involved in wastewater treatment projects, which are vital infrastructure.
How significant is Angola for the MCA Group’s overall operations and objectives, especially as concerns the Group’s renewable energy portfolio?
Angola holds immense importance within the MCA Group’s strategic priorities. The country takes centre stage for us in 2023 and 2024. Our concentrated efforts are directed towards the successful execution of ongoing projects, including the completion of the initial package of seven projects and the implementation of projects in approximately 60 locations, 48 of which comprise off-grid projects.
This unwavering focus on Angola is pivotal not only for our immediate objectives but also for shaping the trajectory of our future initiatives. We are particularly committed to addressing water management challenges in the country, aligning with Angola’s needs, and thus this will be a prominent area for us. In essence, Angola plays a pivotal role in our group’s strategy for the years ahead.
What is MCA’s regional strategy within sub-Saharan Africa?
MCA has a track record in Mozambique and has explored opportunities in several other African countries. Our strategic outlook includes expanding our footprint into sub-Saharan Africa. We are particularly enthusiastic about projects that intertwine water management and renewable energy solutions, as we recognise the pressing issues faced by many countries in this region, akin to those in Angola.
This involves not only the generation of renewable energy but also the critical aspect of efficient water resource management. We aim to replicate the successful model we have employed in Angola in other sub-Saharan African nations.
It’s worth noting that a significant portion of the global population without access to clean drinking water resides in sub-Saharan Africa, and this challenge is expected to intensify with population growth. As the need for water increases, so does the demand for food production, necessitating a simultaneous increase in agricultural potential.
However, achieving this without effectively managing water resources is untenable. Hence, our vision is to address these fundamental needs by providing renewable energy solutions, facilitating access to potable water and enhancing agricultural production through innovative irrigation systems. Our expansion into sub-Saharan Africa aligns with our commitment to making a meaningful and sustainable impact in these vital areas.
Our primary focus for expansion in sub-Saharan Africa will initially be on the countries neighbouring Angola, given their geographical proximity and strategic importance. However, our overarching goal is to extend our presence and operations to encompass sub-Saharan Africa. We believe that our capabilities and resources position us well to undertake this broader expansion across the region.
Where do you envision MCA’s presence and impact in Angola five years from now?
Our vision for the future in Angola is to persist in our strategy of delivering projects that align with the community’s needs and government objectives. We aim to sustain our role as a bridge between financiers, technology suppliers and project execution to provide solutions that serve a meaningful purpose.
Our commitment is to continue forging this path, contributing to sustainable solutions in energy and water management. In the coming years, we see MCA as a catalyst for positive change, where everyone involved in our projects emerges as a winner.