Supporting the Expansion Of Solar Power in West Africa
Power Africa is supporting power development companies, governments, and financiers across the region to harness the power of the sun and expand electricity access for millions
With its terrain and natural resources, West Africa has the potential to expand its use of renewable energy across the region. Many West African countries, however, lack the technology and infrastructure to employ these resources, and rely on expensive, imported, and dirty fossil fuels to meet their energy needs.
As a renewable energy source, solar power is key to powering the region’s clean energy future. With the right financing and support in place, it can be deployed quickly and costs less to maintain than other power sources. The cost of solar and battery storage technologies also continues to decrease relative to fossil fuels.
Power Africa is collaborating with power developers, governments, and financiers to advance renewable energy infrastructure and expand the availability of solar power across West Africa. Five Power Africa-supported solar projects in the region will provide about 150 megawatts (MW) of electricity — enough to supply roughly 405,000 households. These projects alone will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 146,000 tons of CO2 equivalent per year while bringing reliable, affordable electricity to these communities.
Helping Countries Build the Right Infrastructure
Each country faces challenges to adopting solar energy. In Burkina Faso, only one in five people have access to electricity, with huge disparities between rural and urban communities. The country’s reliance on expensive, imported fuel makes its power system costly to run and harmful to the environment. To support the transition to cleaner energy and promote the use of solar power, Power Africa provided technical assistance to the national power utility, SONABEL, to help build the capacity of the utility to evaluate solar projects proposed and to negotiate power purchase agreements.
In October 2021, two utility-scale solar projects, Kodeni and Nagréongo, reached financial close. The Kodeni Solar Power Station is the country’s largest solar power plant and first public-private partnership to hit this milestone. The solar plant will bring power to 115,000 households in the country of about 20 million people. The power generated at the plant will also save 41,000 tons of CO2 every year, which is equivalent to the energy produced by burning more than 45 million pounds of coal.
In Ghana, Power Africa collaborated with the national Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in conducting grid impact and stability studies to support Bui Power Authority (BPA) to operationalize the first 50 MW phase of its 250 MW solar-hydro hybrid plant. This doubles Ghana’s grid connected solar energy, supporting the Government of Ghana’s goal in increasing renewable energy penetration and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Following this activity and the successful commissioning of the first 50 MW, BPA plans to move forward with construction of the next two phases of 50 MW solar PV.
Power Africa supports other countries exploring solar projects by reviewing concession agreements and financial models. Power Africa has also shared best practices for solar independent power producer (IPP) markets with country experts so they can work on expanding these capabilities. Over time, the rise in renewable energy at the country level will pay dividends for West African economies, people, and the planet.
Uniting the Sahel Region to Mobilize the Power of the Sun
Power Africa supports major cross-country initiatives to expand solar energy across West Africa. Power Africa’s involvement in the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Desert to Power (DtP) G-5 Sahel Financing Facility program is one example of its regional approach. The $966 million DtP initiative aims to create the largest solar production zone in the world and could expand electricity access to 250 million people across the entire Sahel region.
In 2021, Power Africa helped DtP secure a $150 million grant from the Green Climate Fund, which is a major step forward for the work in the G5 Sahel countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, and Niger. An expert from Power Africa’s team helped DtP’s leadership draft the grant application and advised on the development of solar plants at the country level, including the 42 MW Djermaya solar project in Chad.
Across West Africa, solar energy is the key to unlocking power for millions of people. Whether working directly with a country’s utility company, advising on a project’s financing, or collaborating with a multi-country initiative, Power Africa is helping transform the region into a solar powerhouse.