0120 GMT October 24, 2019
Less than six months later, that November, the mantle was passed over to Burkina Faso as a 33MW solar power plant on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Ouagadougou, went online. But as in the case of Senegal, it is a title that Burkina Faso won’t hold for long as another West African nation, Mali, plans to open a 50MW solar plant by the end of this year, according to IPS.
What may seem like increasing rising investment in renewables in West Africa is a combination of public-private partnerships and strong political will by countries to keep the commitments made in the Paris Agreement.
“It’s like a healthy competition. In Senegal in 2017 there have been a number of solar plants that have quite a sizeable volume of production feeding into the electricity network. And this is turning out to be a common trend I think. Because it is one of the ways to actually fill the gap in terms of electricity, affordability and access,” said Mahamadou Tounkara, the country representative for the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Senegal and Burkina Faso. The institute has a mandate to support emerging and developing countries develop rigorous green growth economic development strategies and works with both the public and private sector.
What may seem like increasing rising investment in renewables in West Africa is a combination of public-private partnerships and strong political will by countries to keep the commitments made in the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to tackle climate change. In the agreement countries declared their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are outlines of the actions they propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2°C. According to 2017 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report, 45 African countries have quantifiable renewable energy targets in their NDCs.
However, many African countries still rely heavily on fossil fuels as a main energy source.
And while the countries are showing good progress with the implementation of renewables, Dereje Senshaw, the principal energy specialist at GGGI, tells IPS that it is still not enough. He acknowledges though that the limitation for many countries “is the difficulty in how to attract international climate finance.”
In a 2017 interview with IPS, IRENA Policy and Finance expert, Henning Wuester, said that there was less than $10 billion investment in renewables in Africa and that it needed to triple to fully exploit the continent’s potential.
Representatives from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea and Senegal will meet in Ouagadougou from Jun. 26 to 28 at a first ever regional capacity development workshop on financing NDC implementation in the energy sector. One of the expected outcomes of the workshop, organized by GGGI, IRENA and the Green Climate Fund, is that these countries will increase their renewable energy target pledges and develop concrete action plans for prioritizing their energy sectors in order to access climate funding.
Senshaw points out that these West African countries, and even those in sub-Saharan Africa where most of the energy source comes from hydropower and biomass, “can easily achieve 100 percent renewable energy.”
“Increasing their energy target means they are opening for climate finance. International climate finance is really willing to provide support when you have more ambitious targets,” he said.
IRENA estimates that Africa’s potential for renewables on the continent is around 310 GW by 2030, however, only 70 GW will be reached based on current NDCs.
While the opportunities for investment in renewables “is quite substantial,” African countries have lacked the capacity to access this, according to Tounkara.