US company Symbion Power targets energy sector in Africa

Coinciding with African Utility Week taking place in Cape Town later this month, US energy company Symbion Power has taken strides to invest in the power sectors in South Africa and Nigeria which builds on its presence in Tanzania, and cements its interest in the continent as an investment destination.

Symbion’s expansion in Africa appears to take advantage of a growing demand for power on the continent, as well as the privatisation of power generation and power distribution, affording huge market opportunities.

The company’s interest in Africa is best explained by CEO Paul Hinks:

“These firms are ethical,” Paul adds, “they have integrity and they need partners in both the public and private sectors. The US government wants to support both the US and the African private sector as this is the route to development on the continent. President Obama’s strategy for Sub Saharan Africa was set out in June 2012 and I am sure that everyone will soon see that he is committed to it.”

South African power network contract EJP, which has a strong reputation with the local utility Eskom, mining houses and several municipalities in the country, was recently acquired by Symbion. This, according to Hinks, was a vote of confidence in Africa:

“We wanted a foothold in South Africa and we wanted to strengthen the management of our organization on the Africa continent. EJ Power has good, experienced management who live in Africa.”

Symbion has shown interest in other regions on the continent, especially Nigeria where its partner Transcorp Consortium recently won the bid for acquisition of the 972 megawatts capacity Ughelli Power Plant, one of six power generation companies in the country being privatised.

“We will soon open a new office in Lagos that will become the headquarters of our African independent power business,” Hinks added, “South Africa will be the headquarters for our construction and engineering business but we intend to pursue IPP opportunities in South Africa too.”

The company already has infrastructure in Tanzania where Hinks confirms it owns three power plants generating 217 megawatts, as well as recently signing an agreement with TANESCO, the utility there, to co-develop a 400MW power plant and a 650km transmission line in the south at Mtwara. This plant, Hinks states, will potentially be able to provide natural gas-fired power to nearby countries such as Mozambique and Malawi, and could eventually feed the Southern African Power Pool.

The move is capped off with Hinks’ presence as part of the CEO Forum at African Utility Week, a 12-year old conference and exhibition aimed to facilitate discussions around the opportunities in the power sector. It takes place on 14-15 May in Cape Town, South Africa and is expected to bring together 5 000 power and water professionals.



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