Development finance institution the African Development Bank (AfDB) has provided a $6-million grant to the West African Power Pool (WAPP) to conduct prefeasibility studies for the construction of the Sahel Transmission Backbone that will link regional solar parks in five countries that contribute to the WAPP.
The grant is to launch the initial phase of the Desert to Power West Africa Regional Energy Programme. The AfDB-led Desert to Power initiative is expected to transform the Sahel by harnessing the region’s abundant solar potential.
The financing will also help de-risk energy investments by preparing transmission infrastructure to link countries in the Sahel region and harness a larger share of electricity from solar power. This is expected to pave the way for power trading on a regional electricity market. The Group of Five (G5) Sahel countries are Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
“The Sahel Backbone is synonymous with the WAPP's drive to reinforce interconnectivity among the Economic Community for West African States (Ecowas) national power systems, increase coverage area beyond the Ecowas geographical space and augment the component of renewable energy within the energy mix.
"The approval of funding by the AfDB represents a concrete step towards leveraging the solar potential of the Sahel region,” says WAPP secretary general Siengui Apollinaire Ki.
“The funding for the Desert to Power initiative will allow the Ecowas Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (Ecreee) to upscale efforts on clean-energy minigrids and improve the availability of locally qualified personnel through the certification of technicians,” says Ecreeee acting executive director Bah Saho.
The West Africa regional programme will contribute to the overall target of 10 000 MW of new solar generation capacity, providing electricity access to 250-million people by 2030.
“As the regional roadmap for Desert to Power takes shape, this programme comes as a timely enabler for concerted and large-scale solar energy deployments in the G5 Sahel region, and it will help accelerate the energy transition,” says AfDB acting director for renewable energy and energy efficiency Dr Daniel Schroth.
The grant funding is sourced from the African Development Fund’s 15 regional operations envelope.
Ecreee will also receive financing to expand decentralised energy systems as part of an Ecowas Regional Mini-Grid Programme.