TotalEnergies CEO says IMF debt rules hobbling African green energy projects

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 5:49 AM

By America Hernandez

PARIS – Renewable energy investments in Africa are being hobbled by insufficient government loan guarantees, as the International Monetary Fund keeps a tight leash on country indebtedness, TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne said Wednesday.

Pouyanne said currently electricity projects in Africa suffer from “a problem of solvency… you have a risk not to be paid”. “So when a renewable developer wants to develop, and it’s obvious you have huge potential, he will go and see the government and ask for guarantees,” he said.

“But the African governments, they will tell you, are not able to give these guarantees because the IMF is coming and telling them, ‘Don’t go and give these guarantees, you are already over-indebted’.”

Pouyanne said the result was that in Africa, his company was largely limited to business-to-business mining projects, because it is an industry where they know they will receive payment.

TotalEnergies has oil and gas operations in 30 African countries, plus two solar parks in Egypt and plans for a solar power and battery storage project in South Africa to come online in 2025.

Its global renewable energy projects totalled 22 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by the end of 2023,  the most of the oil majors, located in Latin America, Eurasia, the U.S. and the Middle East.

The comments were made at a government-industry dialogue hosted by the International Energy Agency focusing on Africa and renewable energy.

“I am disappointed not to see … a real international financial body to counterguarantee all these African states — and not to ask them more than what we are asking,” Pouyanne said.

He said that on TotalEnergies’ 1 GW solar plant in Iraq, the project’s international financiers were asking the Iraqi government for more loan guarantees than TotalEnergies, leading the French company to fully self-insure the project to avoid burdening the government with more debt.

(Editing by Jan Harvey)