Arnaud Gouet is the SVP Utilities for Release by Scatec, and he’s dedicated to giving utility companies the bankability, flexibility and scalability they need to light up Africa and drive growth.
Arnaud Gouet’s career, put simply, has been all about bringing electricity to people. He says that he’s found value in this, as “power brings so much”.
“We take it for granted all too often,” he says, “but electricity is really at the heart of development.”
The goal, he describes, is to give populations access to affordable electricity now, so they can grow. In many countries, growth is needed urgently, and they require a power system that can accommodate this immediate need. But the clean energy transition is complex, often requiring government support, infrastructure buildout and sometimes even grid modernisation. This takes time and money, which can be in short supply.
“At Scatec, we saw that we needed a better solution. We needed to get projects realised faster, so that countries could start benefiting now, not in 10 years from now,” he says.
The key to this, he says, is to give the utility companies in developing regions greater flexibility. They need access to a readily available source of energy to feed into what may be a weak grid. And they need the ability to use a mix of energy sources and vary those sources over time, depending on cost and availability.
“Utilities need a solution that enables them to keep their energy options open,” as Arnaud puts it.
Release gives utilities flexibility to vary energy sources over time
This is the context in which Release by Scatec is operating. Not every country or every utility company is in a position to embark on a lengthy power purchasing process, nor do they want to lock themselves into 25+ year agreements.
“We offer them a plug and play solution. They rent a redeployable solar and storage power plant from us for as long as they need it. They can combine the clean energy they generate from this with other sources and remain open to new sources of energy in the future,” Arnaud explains.
ENEO, a utility in North Cameroon, is already doing this with Release. Droughts have hit this country hard, and it has impacted their electricity supply, which is heavily dependent on hydropower. To remedy this power shortage, a typical process with a power producer would take years, leaving the people of Cameroon quite literally in the dark.
“Utilities are at the heart of development in Africa. If you don’t have power, you don’t have a functioning hospital, sanitation, or security. And you don’t develop. That’s really what we are solving with Release. People can’t wait five more years.”
Release’s partnership with ENEO was up and running within months, and today 26 MWp of photovoltaic (PV) is bringing more power to the grid. A 20 MWh grid-connected battery storage system (BESS), the biggest today in Africa, is hybridised with the PV plant to ensure grid stability. The first power was delivered six months after contract signing which makes it one of the fastest deployment of a PV project in the region, and it’s exactly what Africa needs.
Release has also signed a 35 MWp solar PV plus 20 MWh storage plant in N’djamena, Chad.
“When you bring power, you get more and more users. This is suppressed demand, and it’s common in Africa. That means that the power solution must also scale, growing along with the grid and the demand. This is something that Release enables as well,” says Arnaud.
Release may be a fast solution but it doesn’t always have to be a short-term one, Arnaud is quick to clarify. Utilities can, for example, rent for 15 years and then take on ownership of the plant. The Release crew offers training to locals – so that they are empowered to run their own operations.
“Renting is simple and it’s quick,” says Arnaud. “It enables us to execute as fast as possible and start bringing affordable power to people now.”