Senegal commits to renewable energy

Oil and gas discoveries in 2014 and 2016 have brought attention to Senegal’s potential as a strong player in the petroleum game. Nevertheless, the government continues to show its intention to tackle environmental challenges.

Senegal has prioritised 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.

The establishment of a Ministry for Biofuels and Renewable Energy in 2007 was the first step in the government’s promotion of renewable energy and is also a fairly unique initiative in Africa. Just under half the population does not have access to electricity in Senegal and authorities have placed high hopes in renewable energy to lead the way.

Furthermore, in June 2010, Parliament unanimously passed a new law – the Guidance on Renewable Energy – which is meant to increase the production of alternative energy.

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. Power Sentechnologies Senegal is a leading company in solar energy which boasts practical achievements in several areas. The company started developing solar, wind and wave energy and has diversified its work in the field of industrial fishing, industrial processing and freezing of products, development of business premises, real estate, solar houses and villas, hybrid solar/fossil fuel houses and even leisure, having built a complex with a 100 percent solar restaurant and movie theatre.

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.

Last year, 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. Funded by GreenWish Africa – a consortium comprised of local and international investors – the plant was built in eight months by Omexom, a subsidiary of the French power giant Vinci Energies.

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.

In July, an agreement was signed for the funding of two new solar power plants, within the Scaling Solar initiative, for a total investment of $42 million. With a total capacity of 60 MW, these power plants will be the seventh and eighth in the country and will produce electricity for 600 000 people. The plants will be funded by French development organisation, Proparco, the European Investment Bank and the International Finance Company.

Given the increasing number of solar projects in the country, the Polytechnic Superior School of Dakar (ESP) and researchers of the Polytechnique Federal School of Lausanne (EPFL) 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 sugar-cane 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 percent of its total energy generation.