With electricity demand climbing at an average rate of 12% per year, Côte d’Ivoire is embarking on a plan to strengthen its generation capabilities. The plans call an increasing part of the power mix to be generated from renewable sources. Renewable energy has become a key component for these efforts and a strategic shift from the nation’s largely thermal generation capacity. The goal is an ambitious one: the government aims for renewables, including large hydropower facilities, to account for 34% of generation capacity by 2020. As of mid-2017 thermal power plants delivered some 80% of the country’s installed generation capacity of 2020 MW, with just 1% derived from renewable sources, and hydropower production making up 19%.
Solar generation is set to play an important role in bolstering renewables capacity, with several areas of Côte d’Ivoire identified as suitable for solar power generation. In November 2016 the authorities signed a contract for the country’s first solar plant with Moroccan firm Nova Power, which is set to build a 25-MW solar power plant in the northern region of Benguébougou. The unit is expected to be completed by the end of 2018 at a total cost of CFA23bn (€34.5m). As is the case with other energy producers, the solar facility will sell its output to Compagnie Ivoirienne d’Electricité as an independent power producer (IPP).
In November 2017 a tariff agreement was signed between the government, Biokala (a subsidiary of agro-industrial group SIFCA) and the French electricity company EDF, which paved the way for the construction of a 46 MW biomass power plant, fuelled by waste from palm-oil plantations. The facility, which is currently under construction, will turn 476,000 tonnes of biomass into 337 GWH of energy.
According to government policy, the private sector is set to take on most of the responsibility for the construction of new power generation facilities under build-own-operate agreements. The drive to develop renewable capacity has also been encouraged by international institutions, such as the World Bank, which are supporting the development of solar power in several African countries. In addition to helping secure funding for renewable energy projects, multilateral institutions have established partial risk guarantees for IPPs.
The strategy of harnessing the potential of IPPs to improve generation capacity has proved successful with thermal generation, with three independent producers operating in the segment. However, this is the first time the concept is going to be applied to renewable energies.
The Ministry of Petroleum, Energy and Renewable Energy Development announced that the new solar plant was expected to sell the energy to the state at a maximum price of CFA70 (€0.11) per KWh, according to international media reports. while the newly negotiated tariff agreement for the biomass project set a maximum price of CFA62 (€0.09) per KWh. While both these projects push Côte d’ Ivoire forward in its ambition to increase generation capacity, the price of energy generate through renewable energies far outweigh the prices paid to current IPPs. For example, purchase of energy from the Azito thermal power plant in Abidjan costs CFA 24.78 (€0.04) per KWh.
Although interest in the development of solar and renewable programmes is likely to benefit Côte d’Ivoire in terms of sector expertise, the fact that several other nations in the region – such as Morocco, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Uganda – are looking to develop their capacity means that it will be competing with many countries for international investment. Thus, continued political stability and investor-friendly regulations that create the right incentives for private businesses will be critical for authorities to be able to implement their plans.
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