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Feb 24, 2014  | Tom Cheyney  | 0 Comments

Captain Sunshine, head of state?

Solar advocate Yosef Abramowitz considers run for Israeli presidency, while utility-scale PV project in Rwanda bears his stamp; Mercom takes measure of Indian solar market

It’s one thing to have a pro-solar politician, but to have a solar industry pro talk about running for political office is quite another. In Israel, one of the more colorful PV advocates is not talking about standing for just any elected position but says he may throw his hat into the Knesset ring as a candidate for president. The Jewish Press reports that Yosef “Captain Sunshine” Abramowitz, head of Arava Power (and brother-in-law of American comedienne Sarah Silverman), may be “joining the crowded field of candidates to succeed Shimon Peres” as president. “I still say I’m not running, but if 20 [members of the Knesset] from five parties decide what I can offer is important, I’d speak to my family and investors,” he told Shalom Life. “Otherwise I’m perfectly happy saving the world with solar power without adding complications to my life.”

Abramowitz was also in the news recently for his part in an 8.5MW utility-scale PV project under construction in Rwanda, via the participation of his companies Gigawatt Global and Energiya Global Capital. The project, which is being built by Scatec Solar, is located about 60KM outside the capital city of Kigale at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a community for children orphaned as a result of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. When completed, it will increase the country’s electrical generation capacity by 8% and be the first large-scale solar power plant there, according to PV Tech.

FMO, the Dutch Development Bank, the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund and Norfund are joining together to help finance the solar park, with funding grants also coming from other European and U.S. sources. Scatec and Norfund will hold majority shares in the power plant, with Gigawatt Global maintaining a 20% share in the project as developer.

“The human race bears a moral and practical imperative to provide power for all, while also transitioning from burning fossil fuels to harnessing renewables,” the ebullient Abramowitz said to the Israel 21C website in its fairly detailed story about the East African PV project. “The Rwanda solar field serves as a proof-of-concept to successfully develop and finance commercial-scale solar fields throughout Africa and in the developing world. It is a game-changer for humanity and the environment.”

(Speaking of the cradle of humanity, the Curator also recommends a special PV Tech feature titled “Why African solar needs a new strategy,” which goes into more depth about the Rwandan plant and offers some contrarian perspectives on PV’s prospects—think more emphasis on urban, on-grid, and less on rural, off-grid systems—in the Mother Continent.)

India is another country where the game-changing promise of solar power is great, but the execution so far has been uneven. Market researcher Raj Prabhu of Mercom Capital is one of the keenest observers of subcontinental markets and trends, and his latest weekly market intelligence report includes his must-read India solar quarterly market update. Raj has updated his installation forecast for 2014, now foreseeing another 1GW of deployment this year. Inconsistent national and state policies, uncertainties around the looming federal election, and the trade spat with the U.S. over “domestic content requirement” provisions make any forecast subject to many variables.

“The case for solar in India will remain strong as long as the relevant policy goals address power shortages that affect millions of Indians, businesses, industries and agriculture,” Raj notes. “Unfortunately, as we have been seeing consistently over the last three years, designing solar policies to address power problems seems to have taken a back seat to picking and choosing technologies, experimenting with payment mechanisms, auction methods, and getting into trade disputes.”


Sources: Jewish Press, Shalom Life, Israel 21C, PV Tech, Mercom Capital, Energiya Global

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