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Energy for The Smiling Coast

Every day that goes by on the “Smiling Coast” requires households and businesses to rely on electricity for their various tasks at hand.  The electricity sector in The Gambia is currently regulated by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). According to PURA, “Following the approval of the National Energy Policy in 2005, and the enactment of the Electricity Act, the electricity sector in The Gambia has seen significant improvements. The monopoly NAWEC (National Water and Electricity Company) earlier enjoyed the generation of electricity and ended with the opening of the generation market to the private sector. NAWEC, however, still maintains its monopoly status in the distribution and transmission sectors…The Government launched the Rural Electrification Project in 2007 which built new power plants in all major provincial towns. All the engines are diesel units; however another feature of the project was the construction of extensive transmission and distribution networks in several villages and towns in the rural areas. Electricity services were significantly improved with most localities experiencing an excess of 12 hours of electricity per day, six hours in the morning and six hours in the evenings. Nawec still maintains its Kotu Power Station as the major generating power house supported by a number of stand-alone power stations in the major provincial towns. The current maximum available capacity at Kotu Power Station is 25.3 MW at peak load. In 2006, an independent Power producer, an IPP became operational with a new power plant in Brikama with an installed capacity of 26 MW. This new injection of privately generated power resulted in major improvements in the sector. There are also two relatively small renewable IPPs introducing renewable energy in the energy mix of the country”.

On May 14th 2020, the World Bank Group issued a press release with the following title, “The Gambia to Advance Reforms in the Electricity and Telecom Sectors”. It goes on to underline that a $30 Million Development Policy Grant was awarded to The Gambia to enable it to pursue the following:

  1. Improve Debt and Public Investment Management.
  2. Improve Financial Viability and Service Delivery in the Energy and Telecom Sectors.
  3. Enhance Transparency and Governance Framework of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

Interestingly, and according to privacyshield.gov, “The Gambia is geologically situated within the Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry (MSGBC) Basin. There are four offshore and two onshore oil blocks, and licensing to these blocks is conducted by The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. The Ministry houses the Gambia National Petroleum Agency (GNPC) which is responsible for fuel storage and supply. The Gambia depends on imported petroleum to meet its commercial energy needs, including generation of electricity which relies on the importation of Heavy Fuel Oils (HFOs). Permits to import HFOs are fully liberalized. The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy engages in direct negotiations and accepts proposals from oil companies that express interest in the country, rather than issuing tenders for companies to submit bids, a process it calls expensive…Oil exploration and drilling licenses present the best prospects in the oil and gas sectors. In 2016, drilling in a Senegalese oil field adjacent to one of the Gambian offshore oil blocs confirmed the presence of sizable crude oil deposits in Gambian territory.

Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO): It is estimated that The Gambia imports 84,000 metric tons of HFO annually. In March 2017 the new administration announced the liberalization of the importation of fuels into The Gambia and one year later, the U.S Department of Treasury issued sanctions against monopolist fuel importer, sending fears of a price hike in the market. The GOTG will be looking for a reliable supplier of HFOs. There are opportunities for investment in the oil and gas sector, which is listed as a critical enabler in the National Development Plan (2018-2021) and which The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) lists as a priority sector. Two companies have been issued mineral exploration and exploitation licenses for the preliminary exploration of onshore and offshore oil…The importation of seismic data mapping technology along with drilling licenses presents medium term market opportunities”.

Amongst the other sources for energy, Solar is one that is making quite some progress as well in The Gambia. On November 22nd, 2019, afrik21.africa published an article listing the following: “Shay Solar officials have indicated that they are considering installing a solar power plant on the Gambian soil to provide clean electricity to the population. The full details of the project have not been disclosed by these German investors, but it is already known that the new infrastructure will enable, once installed, to improve the supply of electricity in the country and to make cost savings…For the time being, the total installed capacity in the Gambia is 125 MW, although the actual production is about 75 MW. The Gambia wants to connect one third of the rural population to electricity through off-grid solutions by 2030. This will require the installation of mini networks and autonomous home systems. In Gambia, the rate of access to electricity is 47 percent…”.

This company expressed their interest after the Government of The Gambia and the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) issued a statement seeking consultants for the preparation of a feasibility study for the inception of a 150 MW Solar Plant. Pv-magazine.com goes into further details: “The Government said it will ensure land availability, award permits for a power purchase agreement with utility the National Water and Electricity Company Ltd. and prepare transmission lines for connection to a substation…The Gambia Government added it has identified a 225 hectare site near the 225/30 KV OMVG substation in Soma which is under construction. The substation, in the center of the small Nation near where the main east-west road crosses the north-south Trans-Gambia Highway will be expected to raise the percentage of the Gambian population with access to electricity from 40% to 60%…The project, which may be coupled with 20 MWh of storage capacity for grid stabilization purposes, is expected to be built in two phases, with the first, 80 MW unit scheduled for completion in 2021 and the second, 70 MW section planned to come online in 2025…”.

The Republic of The Gambia is definitely moving in the right direction with the above mentioned infrastructure timelines. The various economic sectors and households will benefit tremendously from the supply of stable and abundant electricity to fulfill their daily personal and professional endeavors. More Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) will flow as a result of such outcomes and jobs will be created for generations to come in “The Smiling Vibrant Business Coast.”

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