Oil and gas discoveries in 2014 and 2016 have brought attention to Senegal’s potential as a strong player in the petroleum game. The country currently has two mega projects offshore under development; Sangomar to produce first oil in 2023 and Grand Tortue Ahmeyim on the Mauritanian border to produce first gas in 2022. Although the current situation may delay both projects by a few weeks, targeted deadlines remain the same and operators Woodside and BP are not questioning the viability of the projects in the long-term.
Since President Macky Sall’s election in 2012, Senegal has operated a drastic change in line with its vision for the energy sector. Acknowledging the importance of energy independence and stability, leadership vowed to design a diversified energy strategy, counting on different sources to make up its energy mix.
Senegal has prioritized the development of its use of the renewable energy sector, as the country has huge potential for solar and wind energy. The solar potential is partly being exploited by the introduction of photovoltaic (PV) technology and a number of projects have been directed using wind power for rural electrification.
A number of programs, mostly PV, have been deployed in Senegal over the past decade and government’s efforts are showing results. To promote renewable energy the government has exempted all solar power lighting, water pumps and water heating kits from customs, taxes and value added tax.
The ‘One Roof, One Panel’ program, introduced under the previous administration, focuses on urban areas and aims to encourage households to reduce their electricity bills.
Its rural version, ‘One Box, One Panel’ focuses on rural areas that are far from the electricity grid. Senegal´s rural electrification plan has given the industry a boost already; the country now has more than 60 private firms focusing mainly on the commercialization of imported solar technologies.
In 2018, President Macky Sall inaugurated the largest solar power plant in West Africa, Senergy 2, which boasts a 20-megawatt (MW) capacity, delivered by 75,000 PV panels and aims to provide electricity to 160,000 people. Since then, Senegal has inaugurated three new plants: Senergy (30MW), Ten Merina (30MW) and Malicounda (22MW).
Furthermore, French company Engie, together with its partner Meridiam and sovereign fund Fonsis, has constructed two new solar plants in the country, featuring a capacity of 20MW each. Both plants are part of the Scaling Solar initiative by the World Bank, which aims to unlock private investment in solar power markets. The ‘one stop shop’ program aims to make privately funded grid-connected solar projects operational within two years and at competitive tariffs.
Last February, President Sall inaugurated West Africa’s largest wind farm at Taiba N’diaye, north of the capital city Dakar. Since December 2019, Parc Eolien Taiba N’Diaye
(PETN) has provided 50MW to the Senelec grid thanks to the installation of 16 wind turbines. These are among the largest in the world, each peak at almost 180 m in height, the equivalent of a 60-storey building. The upcoming second phase of construction will see PETN generate an additional 50MW. The third and final production phase will bring the number of turbines to 46 and provide the national electricity company Senelec with 158.7MW of clean energy.
Given the increasing number of solar projects in the country, the Polytechnic Superior School of Dakar and researchers of the Polytechnique Federal School of Lausanne co-founded the CT2S in order to assess the quality of photovoltaic materials which are in growing demand. The institution aims to allow material testing, train technicians and lead research missions.
The government is also looking to develop and promote the use of wind and wave technology and is cooperating with private and non-governmental institutions on the Alizé Senegal Project. The government has also set about developing its biofuels segment, by distributing 250 million jatropha seedlings – which can be used as a biofuel – to rural families. The program, called the Return to Agriculture program, aims to revitalize the rural economy by giving small-scale farmers a new cash crop. The refined oil can be used as biodiesel for vehicles and for power generation. Senegal is also looking to ethanol as an alternative energy source.
Over the past decade, Compagnie Sucriere Senegalaise, the country´s largest sugar company, developed a pilot project using sugarcane-based resources to produce ethanol for power production. In addition, Senegal plans to progressively replace thermal power plants and thus curb oil imports in hopes to eventually bring Senegal’s renewable energy use up to 60% of its total energy generation.
The inauguration of Taiba N’diaye wind farm will allow Senegal to reach its ambitious of producing 30 percent of its power from renewables sources, thus placing it as a leading country in the region and an inspiring model for neighbors. A number of factors are key in the establishment of diversified energy mix such as renewable potential, investor interest and low costs of equipment with presidential and government vision a sine qua none condition towards success.
Although Senegal oil and gas discoveries are outstanding, and the growing global demand for liquefied natural gas as a transition fuel away from oil will generate substantial cashflow for the country, the country’s emergence plan was launched in 2014 and didn’t take into account the establishment of a productive oil and gas sector.
With massive power generation potential from its wind and solar resources, world-class oil and gas discoveries and especially a strong leadership focused on acquiring energy independence, Senegal has designed a sound, diversified energy mix. In times of turmoil where the future of oil is questioned and climate change issues are more and more present, many countries have lessons to learn from Senegal’s example.