A newly launched company Escotel is looking to provide clean energy to telecom towers in Africa. The new venture is a collaboration between Inspired Evolution, an investment advisory firm based in Cape Town, Norwegian private equity company Norfund and Sagemcom, a UK technology company specialising in audio-video, energy and telecommunications solutions. The three firms managed to raise around $35 million in venture capital to form Escotel. The newly established company will execute its first contract with the French mobile operator, Orange.
Norfund is investing US$10 million in the company, while Inspired Evolution is investing 20 million dollars and Sagemcom five million dollars.
Escotel will be based in Mauritius, and will provide energy services to owners and operators of mobile phone towers. It will own and operate decentralised renewable energy infrastructure throughout Africa.
Escotel’s contract with Orange
Escotel is developing solar power systems for Orange’s mobile towers in Sierra Leone, Liberia and eventually Congo. Escotel will supply, operate and maintain the solar power systems, combined with batteries storage for around 900 mobile towers owned by various subsidiaries of telecoms company Orange.
“We are delighted to partner with Norfund and Sagemcom to establish and provide financing to Escotel and to help Orange’s local mobile operators move to a low-carbon infrastructure, while improving operational efficiency and reducing costs. We are doing this by hybridising the existing power supply systems at the telecom sites with the supply, installation and operation of solar power and storage systems, and deploying these cleaner energy systems at the new telecom sites,” said Wayne Keast, associate director of Inspired Evolution.
Renewable energy replacing diesel
A majority of the mobile towers in African countries today are powered by diesel generators. Powering mobile towers with diesel can be demanding and expensive to drive diesel to remote areas. With solar power and batteries, the bill can be cut significantly.
“This initiative creates a powerful tool that will be able to offer the most up-to-date power solutions for telecommunications networks across Africa, and which increases the quality of mobile services, reduces ownership costs and reduces CO2 emissions,” says Eric Rieul, CEO of Sagemcom Energy & Telecom.
According to Norfund, there are around 150,000 mobile towers in sub-Saharan Africa, and 80,000 to 100,000 of these are suitable for switching to similar solutions that Escotel is now investing in.
The partners behind Escotel have plans to expand around a thousand such facilities over the next ten years, to contribute to local development and cuts in CO2 emissions.