Creating a Sustainable Energy Supply in West Africa Using Gas, Renewables

solar energy. renewable energy. gas

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C pathway, global investment in energy transition technologies must increase by over four times annually to surpass $5 trillion.

By 2030, a total cumulative investment of $44 trillion is required, with 80% ($35 trillion) directed towards prioritizing efficiency, electrification, grid expansion, and flexibility. If concrete climate and development measures are not implemented, up to 32 million people in West Africa may be forced to relocate by 2050 due to slow-onset climate effects such as water scarcity, declining crop and ecosystem productivity, and rising sea levels exacerbated by storm surges. To tackle these challenges, Senegal and Mauritania have taken action to diversify their energy mix.

Senegal has set a target to increase its share of renewables in its energy mix to 30% by 2025, and to achieve universal access to electricity by 2025. It has already achieved a renewable energy composition of 36.6% in its total energy consumption, surpassing its initial goal. Senegal is making remarkable progress in renewable energy, mainly in solar and wind power. In 2020, the country added 60 MW of solar capacity through the World Bank Scaling Solar program and inaugurated a $21.4 million, 23 MW solar plant in Diass that will save SENELEC $2.77 million per year in fuel costs and supply power to 33,000 households. Senegal’s solar energy capacity is predicted to increase as 90% of its land area has a photovoltaic capacity of 1600-1800 kWh/year. Senegal is also home to the largest wind farm in West Africa, the Taiba N’Diaye facility generating 158.7 MW annually and supplying electricity to two million people while mitigating 300,000 tons of carbon emissions per year. The wind farm’s construction reached commercial commissioning in December 2020, increasing Senegal’s national power generation capacity by 15%.

Mauritania has already surpassed its goal of generating 20% of its total electricity from renewable sources by 2020, thanks to the construction of the 30-megawatt wind farm outside Nouakchott and the 50-megawatt Toujounine solar PV plant. Currently, Mauritania’s power mix consists of 35%-40% renewable energy generated by hydro, wind, and solar sources. The government’s official target is to generate 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and this goal should be achieved with the commissioning of the 100-megawatt wind farm. In Mauritania, state-owned utility Somelec controls the generation, grid, and retail electricity sectors. However, the government recently introduced reforms that would split Somelec into four separate entities and allow for competition in power generation. The government intends to issue decrees and frameworks for power purchase agreements between IPPs and Somelec. Under the new reforms, industrial companies may sell excess power generated by on-site projects back to Somelec’s grid, provided they obtain a license justifying the utility’s benefit from using the electricity. Most industries in Mauritania, especially those in the mining sector, have constructed solar, wind, and diesel projects on-site.

When it comes to financing, both governments use funds from development banks. The discovery of the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim offshore field has prompted Mauritania and Senegal to consider converting some of their thermal generation plants from diesel and oil to natural gas while also selling energy to neighboring countries. Following the example of the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund that supports renewable initiatives, the additional revenue generated by the initial gas project could be directed towards funding green projects. Mauritania has claimed that it could attain carbon neutrality and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 92% by 2030 if it is provided with an additional $33.6 billion in international support.

On November 21-22, the MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power Conference in Nouakchott will facilitate the exchange of best practices among stakeholders and nations in the region. The conference aims to establish new investment agreements for projects through African and European investment delegations, and foster strong cross-border partnerships to encourage the adoption of renewable energy.

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Onur Yilmaz

Onur Yilmaz