Female-led SA renewables firm makes mark globally

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 25 Oct 2022
Linda Mabhena-Olagunju, founder and CEO of DLO Energy Resources Group.
Linda Mabhena-Olagunju, founder and CEO of DLO Energy Resources Group.

Linda Mabhena-Olagunju, founder and CEO of DLO Energy Resources Group, whose company owns the largest wind farm in South Africa, is flying the country’s flag high.

Mabhena-Olagunju was recently ranked seventh out of 100 in the prestigious Choiseul 100 Africa listing, making her the only South African on the list and one of four women included in this ranking.

After the recognition, she tells ITWeb that more women of colour should be involved in South Africa’s renewable industry to plug the country’s electricity shortfall.

DLO is an independent power producer headquartered in Johannesburg, with primary operations in renewable energy, solar power and wind power.

Established in 2011, the company oversees one of Africa’s largest wind farms, located in the Northern Cape and powering approximately 160 000 homes with carbon-free solar power.

As of 2021, DLO Energy Resources Group had operations in two countries: South Africa and Nigeria.

DLO owns Longyuan Mulilo Wind Farm in the Northern Cape. It currently produces 144MW. It has been connected to the national grid since 2017 and supplies to the national grid.

Mabhena-Olagunju was listed in the top 10 alongside formidable women such as Leila Bouamatou, managing director and board member of Générale de Banque de Mauritanie; Amrote Abdella, general manager of Amazon Web Service in Sub-Saharan Africa; and Anta Babacar Ngom Diack, managing director of Sedima Group.

The Institut Choiseul was founded in 2010 and is an influential body acting as an independent think-tank focusing on economic governance and leadership.

The Choiseul 100 Africa ranking was launched to highlight the talent of Africa’s young economic leaders and create a network for the young leaders who embody the dynamism of an entire continent.

Only profiles meeting the following conditions are selected:

• Being a citizen of one of the 54 African states.

• Being 40 years old or below on 31 December 2021.

• Being an active contributor to the economic development of Africa.

To rank the selected profiles, several weighted criteria are taken into account, such as the reputation, background and skill of the applicant. Also considered are the function, influence and networks, potential and leadership of the applicants.

The total score obtained in the different categories determines the position of each laureate in the final ranking.

As the study was completed on 31 August, professional or other developments after this date were not taken into account.

The methodology is dedicated to representing all the African regions and as many countries as possible to identify an elite cohort from across the continent, as well as from all value-creating sectors.

In July last year, DLO acquired power infrastructure company Conco Energy Solutions, in a move that it said increases women’s participation in the male-dominated power sector.

“We need more women in the space; we need more people of colour in the space. There is a dire need for electrical engineers and I would urge those looking for a career in the sector to hone in on these skills,” Mabhena-Olagunju tells ITWeb.

“Wind and solar currently only account for 8% of South Africa’s energy mix, and under 4% of that is generated from wind power. Wind has the ability to add more capacity to the grid and power more homes.”

While she acknowledges South Africa is making steady progress in introducing renewable energy to the national grid, she says the pace of adoption has been sluggish.

“The pace has been slow; however, with the recent energy plan, we are seeing an acceleration of projects in the private sector, as more companies generate power for themselves. However, we need to pick up the rate at which government is closing projects under the REIPPPP [Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme].”