A $6 million grant has been approved by the African Development Bank Group to finance the initial phase of the Desert to Power West Africa Regional Energy Program.
The AfDB-funded initiative, Desert to Power, is expected to transform the Sahel by unlocking the region’s abundant solar potential.
Generated from the African Development Fund’s 15 (ADF-15) Regional Operations Envelope, the grant funding will go to the West African Power Pool (WAPP) to conduct pre-feasibility tests for the construction of the Sahel Transmission Backbone.
The aim is to connect regional solar parks in all the five G-5 Sahel countries- Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
The Economic Community for the West African States (ECOWAS) Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) will also receive funds to expand decentralized energy systems as part of an ECOWAS Regional Mini-Grid Program.
In a bid to help de-risk energy investments, the financing will see to the construction of transmission infrastructure to link countries in the Sahel region and harness a larger share of electricity from solar power.
It is hoped that this move will pave the way for power trading on a regional electricity market.
With the West Africa Regional Program geared at contributing to the overall target of 10,000 MW of new solar generation capacity, it is expected that around 250 million people will have access to electricity by 2030.
According to Mr. Siengui Apollinaire Ki, Secretary-General of the West African Power Pool, the Sahel Backbone is closely related to the West African Power Pool’s missions: strengthening interconnectivity among the ECOWAS national power systems; increasing coverage area beyond the ECOWAS geographical space; and augmenting the component of renewable energy within the energy mix.
He also added that “the approval of funding by the African Development Bank represents a concrete step towards leveraging the solar potential of the Sahel region.”
Mr. Bah F. M. Saho, acting Executive Director of ECREEE, said: “The funding for the Desert to Power initiative will allow ECREEE to upscale efforts on clean energy mini-grids and improve the availability of locally qualified personnel through the certification of technicians.”
“As the regional roadmap for Desert to Power takes shape, this program 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,” said Dr. Daniel Schroth, acting Bank Director for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.