Image: University of Canterbury
Electricity rates in The Gambia are among the highest in the world, making alternative energy sources like biodiesel, solar and wind increasingly appealing. Only 35% of The Gambia’s population of two million people have access to electricity, indicating a tremendous opportunity for the development of renewable energy to boost economic activity across the country.
In order to encourage economic growth, job creation, social inclusion, and international competitiveness, the country’s government has vowed to increase access to dependable and reasonably priced energy. The National Water and Electricity Company generates and distributes 98% of its power from fossil fuels, however, additional renewable energy alternatives are largely unexplored.
The Gambia hosts a number of renewable energy projects and initiatives, which have the potential to drive investment into its energy sector.
The Gambia Renewable Energy Center
The Gambia Renewable Energy Center (GREC) was created by the government with the goal of collaborating with interested parties in the development of renewable energy via research and development. The government is encouraging the use of alternative energy sources, and at the moment, solar photovoltaic equipment is being used in the country for both industrial, commercial, and domestic purposes (the country receives roughly 3,000 hours of sunlight per year); biomass is also being used more frequently, though it is mostly limited to agricultural waste such as sawdust, groundnut shells and straw. Windmills are also being used to power water pumps, which is becoming more popular across the country.
The Gambia has been given $66 million by the ECOWAS Regional Energy Access Project (ECOWAS-REAP), in collaboration with the World Bank, to increase access to electricity for its citizens.
The ECOWAS Regional Electricity Access Project (ECOREAP) is an initiative that will help The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, and Mali gain access to electricity.
This money will be used to extend the distribution of the OMVG 225kv transmission line from the Soma to Brikama substations. All villages within a 100km radius of the two substations will be covered. The World Bank is funding the project, which was negotiated in Abuja on the 29th and 30th of October 2018.
This regional initiative will be executed in stages and is part of a larger program that will include 11 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Mauritania, and Chad.
The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, and Mali are included in the first phase of the ECOREAP.
The World Bank authorized the ECOREAP in December 2018, and work has begun in earnest since then. The ECOREAP Owner’s Engineer Contract for The Gambia was signed on July 10, 2020, by the managing director of NAWEC and the director general of SOLENER Technologies.
Phase 1 will provide energy to 1.1 million people in The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Mali.
OMVG Energy Project
The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal are all involved in The Gambia River Basin Development Organization Energy Project (OMVG Energy Project). This subregional body is in charge of implementing the region’s integrated development programs, and focuses particularly on the rational management of the joint resources of Rivers Gambia, Kayanga-Géba and Koliba-Corubal, whose basins have power-generating potential.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) will assist the implementation of the OMVG Energy Project under co-financing arrangements with Agence Française de Dévelopement (AFD), the World Bank, European Investment Bank, Islamic Development Bank, the KFW, and the States concerned at the request of the governments of the four countries indicated above.
The OMVG Energy Project’s overall purpose is to contribute to the socioeconomic development of the organization’s member countries by improving people’s access to energy. By supplying renewable and clean energy at a competitive price, it aims to facilitate energy commerce and enhance the quality of electricity supply in OMVG member countries. Increased access to electricity, extension of the power trading system, and creation of a regional electricity market are among the project’s primary objectives. The usage of water resources will also greatly cut fossil fuel consumption and, as a result, greenhouse gas emissions.
The Gambia Sustainable Energy Sector Program
Supported by the EU, the initiative will assist The Gambia in its attempts to reduce poverty and improve living conditions in the country for the rural population living in remote locations by reducing the country’s reliance on expensive fuel-based generators.
The project consists of four main components: on-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) generation; transmission and distribution network restoration and modernisation; institutional support for sector turnaround; and off-grid (or on-grid but with an unreliable connection) PV units for schools and health facilities in urban and rural areas.
By contributing to an enabling environment for business and supporting competitiveness and sustainability, the initiative will help maximize the impact of development finance. by constructing the necessary power infrastructure to increase households’ access to energy while also improving supply dependability and efficiency. These are all necessary conditions for the country’s economic growth to be sustained and poverty to be reduced.