BLOOMBERG - First Solar Inc., Enel SA and Neoen SAS won contracts to develop two photovoltaic power projects in Zambia that will provide Africa’s cheapest solar power, the first winners of a World Bank-organized auction program to promote wider use of renewable energy in developing nations.

First Solar, the biggest U.S. panel producer, and France’s Neoen will jointly build a 45-megawatt power plant that will sell electricity for 6.02 cents a kilowatt-hour, and Enel will provide power from a 28-megawatt facility for 7.84 cents, the World Bank’s International Finance Corp. announced Monday.

The World Bank, the IFC and World Bank member Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency are offering financing, insurance and advisory services through the Scaling Solar program. That reduces risk and helps cut costs, and should make these emerging regions more appealing to the big developers that are building large-scale solar farms in other parts of the world.

“What’s interesting about the first tender round in Zambia was both the speed and low price -- the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa to date,” said Victoria Cuming, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst in London. “Without the World Bank support, Zambia wouldn’t have been able to hold the tender round in just 10 months. We’ve seen several countries in the region fall down in this area over the last year.”

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