Senegal’s Energy Shift: From Heavy Fuels to Renewables and Natural Gas

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The Senegalese Government has prioritized the development of the national electricity sector as part of its Emerging Senegal Plan (or Plan Sénégal Emergent), which intends to transform the country into an emerging market by 2025. Specifically, Senegal’s leadership hopes to attain universal access to electricity by 2025 by combining on- and off-grid alternatives. Lowering the cost of power generation by reducing reliance on imported liquid fuels and boosting energy access – particularly in rural regions – are among the government’s top priorities. The West African nation is home to tremendous solar and wind power potential, along with vast offshore natural gas reserves, as demonstrated by several key projects that are either in development or have recently come online.

Cap des Biches Combined-Cycle Power Project – 300 MW

The government of Senegal formally placed the foundation stone for the 300-MW Cap des Biches gas-fired power plant project with the award of a contract to GE last January to supply gas power production equipment. Under the scope of the contract, GE will provide two 9E.03 gas turbines, one STF-A200 steam turbine, three A39 generators and two Heat Recovery Steam Generators, among other plant equipment. The project is planned to start operating in stages next year, supporting Senegal’s goal of increasing power generation capacity via gas utilization.

The Cap des Biches project is expected to be the largest power plant in Senegal upon completion, with the capacity to generate approximately 25% of the country’s electricity needs and enough to power up to 500,000 homes. In turn, the project will enable the country to move closer to its objective of universal energy access by 2025. In 2019, Senegal had a rural electrification rate of 53.9%, a substantial increase from its rural electrification rate of just 11% one year earlier.

Senergy Photovoltaic Power Plant – 29 MW

The Senergy project in Senegal is one of the largest solar power facilities in West Africa. After being awarded a €43-million ($50.6 million) contract in May 2016, the solar project, which is located in Mékhé in the Thies area, began producing electricity in June 2017. It is supported by the FONSIS, Senegal’s sovereign Strategic Investment Fund, Méridiam, an investment fund, and Proparco, a private-sector subsidiary of the French Development Agency.

With a nominal capacity of 30 MWp, the Senergy solar power plant is one of the largest in the region, reaching a total investment of approximately CFA 28 billion ($50 million). The plant is able to supply electricity equivalent to the annual consumption of 226,500 inhabitants, at a cost more competitive than that of the country’s thermal power stations. A 25-year electricity purchase contract has been signed between Senergy, a Senegalese company, and SENELEC, the national electricity company.

Senergy 2 Plant – 20 MW

In a country where more than half of the population lacks access to electricity, a privately owned, 20-MW solar photovoltaic power facility in northern Senegal has offered a critical boost to power generation capacity. The Senergy 2 project in Bokhol, Dagana Department, is the country’s first operating solar plant by an independent power producer, made possible by a €20-million ($23.5 million) Green Africa Power (GAP) construction finance credit. GreenWish Partners, a French renewable energy platform, designed the plant. Camco and EISER Infrastructure Partners, GAP’s investment advisers, recognized Senergy 2 as having the potential to promote the development of private sector-owned renewable power generation in a country in need of capacity upgrades.

GreenWish Partners completed the project’s conception and finance in one year, while Vinci Energies completed the construction in eight months, resulting in the creation of 150 temporary jobs. The plant now employs 25 full-time employees and prevents an estimated 22,320 tons of CO2 emissions per year. Senergy 2 highlights the potential for a flexible financing facility to enable profitable renewable energy project investments in locations where the local market is currently unable to support them.

Taiba N’Diaye Wind Farm – 158 MW

The 158-MW Taiba N’Diaye wind farm, which is being built in the Thies region some 70 km north of Dakar, is Senegal’s first utility-scale wind power plant. Lekela Power, a company focused on renewable energy production in Africa, is leading the development of the onshore wind power project. In July 2018, Lekela brought the project to financial close. The first turbine was installed in July 2019 after construction began in December 2018. In December 2019, the 500MW first phase of the wind farm, which includes 16 of the total 46 turbines, came online.

With completion expected to happen later this year, the Taiba N’Diaye Wind Farm is set to raise Senegal’s total electricity output by 15% and generate 400 GWh of clean electricity per year, offsetting 300,000 tons of annual carbon emissions. Notably, the project has drawn support from a variety of international lending institutions. In September 2016, the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (formerly known as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation) pledged $250 million in funding and $70 million in reinsurance for the wind generation project. In August 2018, the Danish Export Credit Agency EKF guaranteed a €140-million ($161 million) export loan facility for the project. The wind farm was insured against political risk by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. During the project’s early stages, the U.S. Agency for International Development provided support through its own initiative, Power Africa.

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Jasser Hammami

Jasser Hammami

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