Côte d’Ivoire develops solar energy, biomass plants and new dams to increase energy capacity

As Côte d’Ivoire seeks to increase its power generation capacity to 6000 MW by the year 2030, the country is also aiming to diversify its energy mix, which at present is exclusively comprised of hydroelectric and thermal sources. To meet its 2015 commitment made at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by 2030, the government plans to invest in hydroelectric, biomass, solar and wind power in a bid to bring the proportion of renewable energy in the mix to 42%. In July 2018 the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) said such commitments could represent as much as $9bn in investment opportunities.

According to a May 2018 roadmap set out by Société des Energies de Côte d’Ivoire (CI-Energies), based on previously identified projects and a 5340-MW capacity by 2030 – a figure lower than the government target of 6000 MW but still largely in line with it – renewable energy would represent 47% of the energy mix by that year. This would be followed by thermal energy and coal at 40% and 13%, respectively. CI-Energies is a state-owned company that is responsible for planning investments in the sector.

The roadmap also noted that Côte d’Ivoire had a generation capacity of 2200 MW in 2018, of which 1320 MW came from thermal plants to represent 60% of the mix and 880 MW stemmed from hydraulic energy to comprise the remaining 40%.

Hydropower

Côte d’Ivoire has invested significantly in its hydropower infrastructure since gaining independence from France in 1960, building six dams for an installed power generation capacity of 604 MW between 1959 and 1984. Due to an economic recession in the 1980s and political instability from the end of the 1990s through 2011, the building of hydroelectric facilities largely ceased for 30 years.

After taking office in 2011, President Alassane Ouattara revived a dam project in the town of Soubré in the west of the country, which was first discussed in the 1960s. Work on the CFA331bn (€496.5m) dam subsequently began in 2013, carried out by China’s Sinohydro. The unit was completed in October 2017 and is now the largest hydropower plant in the country, with a capacity of 275 MW.

Côte d’Ivoire has a hydropower potential of more than 2500 MW, or 12,000 GWh, according to government figures. Officials want to more than double the country’s hydroelectric capacity to at least 2017 MW by 2030, and CI-Energies has identified 17 large-scale dams and 12 small-scale plant projects to contribute to meeting this target.

New Dams

Following the completion of the Soubré plant, work on a second dam further south on the Sassandra River in Gribo-Popoli was launched in November 2017. The 112-MW dam is being built by Sinohydro as well, and is expected to be completed by 2021. Feasibility studies have also been launched for two other hydropower plants on the same river, Boutoubré and Louga. The dams have an estimated capacity of 150 MW and 246 MW, respectively.

In addition, France’s Eiffage will begin construction in 2019 of the 44-MW Singrobo-Ahouaty dam on the Bandama River, with work expected to be completed in 2022. Two more hydroelectric plants – Tayaoubi (150 MW) on the Sassandra River and Gao (150 MW) on the Bafing River – are also in the pipeline following a 2015 deal between the government and Morocco’s Platinum Power.

However, there are concerns about the sustainability of hydropower as the effects of global warming become increasingly apparent. In April 2018 London-based law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner warned about the risk of Côte d’Ivoire’s energy sector becoming over-reliant on hydropower, noting the sensitivity of dams to climate change. The authorities “must be wary of the potentially damaging consequences of global warming on hydroelectric power generation, particularly as it looks to increase its hydroelectric capacity,” the firm wrote.

Solar

Focusing on its traditional resources, Côte d’Ivoire has long lagged behind neighbouring Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali in the production of solar power. As of late 2018 the country did not have any photovoltaic plants in operation. However, with at least five solar energy projects on the docket, Côte d’Ivoire hopes to bring solar capacity to at least 355 MW by 2030, equalling 7% of the mix at that date.

According to CI-Energies, the country has a solar potential of 1900 KWh per sq metre. The northern regions bordering Burkina Faso and Mali have the highest potential for the development of solar projects. “For a long time, the Ivorian authorities were not very interested in solar energy because the country has a lot of natural resources like rivers and dams, but things are changing,” Stéphane Dadie, West Africa account and utilities segment manager at France-headquartered Schneider Electric, told OBG. “Solar is essential not only to diversify the mix, but also to balance energy production between the north and south of the country. Currently, power is exclusively produced in the south and we cannot continue to draw energy to the north forever.”

The country’s first solar project will likely be in the northern town of Benguébougou in the district of Korhogo, where Morocco’s Nova Power will build a 25-MW plant. The CFA23bn (€34.5m) facility, Korhogo Solaire, is set to be operational in the second quarter of 2019. Meanwhile, Ontario-based Canadian Solar is due to develop a 50-MW plant in the Poro region, also in the north. A third photovoltaic facility is to be built in Boundiali. The 37.5-MW plant, which is the first large solar park to secure financing in the country, will be funded by Germany’s development bank, KfW Entwicklungsbank. The bank will provide €36.7m, of which €27m will come from Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and €9.7 from the EU. Also under consideration are a 25-MW plant in the city of Ferkessédougou with South Africa’s BioTherm Energy, and a 30-MW plant in the central town of Daoukro.

The falling cost of solar energy in the past few years has made the projects increasingly competitive, said Serge Ahoussou, head of planning at CI-Energies. “The key issue is typically the cost of the projects. We should not become involved with solar energy because it is fashionable, but because it can be integrated into the system. The cost of solar projects went from around $0.40 per KWh about 10 years ago to roughly $0.10 per KWh now. That makes it really competitive compared to other sources of energy,” he told OBG.

Biomass

Côte d’Ivoire also wants to use its plentiful agricultural output to produce biomass energy. CI-Energies estimates that the country has a biomass energy potential of some 16.7m tonnes per year, which would be comprised of approximately 13m tonnes from cocoa, 2.4m tonnes from palm oil, 1m tonnes from rubber and 200,000 tonnes from cotton. The total electrical capacity from biomass energy is estimated at 1645 MW electrical. The government is targeting 126 MW of generation capacity from biomass sources by 2030.

The most advanced biomass project is the 46-MW Biovea plant, which will use palm oil waste in the south-east city of Aboisso. It is being developed by Biokala, a unit of Ivorian agro-industrial SIFCA Group, in partnership with French firms EDF and Bouygues. The CFA105bn (€157.5m) plant targets an annual production of 337 GWh for the interconnected grid using 476,000 tonnes of biomass. In December 2017 SIFCA Group and the government agreed on a purchase price of CFA62 (€0.09) per KWh.

Two projects using cocoa waste are also in discussions. The government is evaluating building a 20-MW plant in the western city of Gagnoa at a cost of CFA21bn (€31.5m), while Ivorian firm Société Ivoirienne des Energies Nouvelles is working to develop a plant in Divo, also in the west, with a capacity of 60-70 MW. The Divo facility, estimated at CFA154bn (€231m), received a grant of nearly $1m from the US Trade and Development Agency in July 2018, and could be operational by 2023. The Ivorian authorities also have plans for a 25-MW cotton biomass plant in the northern city of Boundiali. Ahoussou said the government is negotiating a purchase price of CFA60 (€0.09) per KWh for all biomass projects.

Meeting Targets

With a number of projects in the pipeline, Côte d’Ivoire is set to make an unprecedented push into the production of renewable energy over the next decade. Still, to meet targets, a more formal framework to attract a greater number of independent power producers (IPPs) will be required. “The current framework is not well defined for IPPs in renewables, and a lot of resources are wasted. A more formal framework would help investors position themselves on projects and help Côte d’Ivoire meet its energy goals,” Dadie told OBG.

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The Report: Côte d’Ivoire 2019

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