Viable alternatives: The country’s strong potential in solar and biomass energy is helping transform the sector

As a result of strong economic growth, boosting production capacity in Côte d’Ivoire has become a government priority against the backdrop of rising domestic electricity demand. While the bulk of this new capacity is set to come from new thermal power plants and hydroelectric dams, other renewable energies play an important role in the government’s energy expansion strategy. At present, Côte d’Ivoire’s renewable energy capacity consists mainly of hydroelectric dams but it has demonstrated significant potential in other renewables such as biomass and solar energy.

According to the 2016-20 National Development Plan (NDP), which was launched in December 2015 and targets structural reform of the economy, by 2030 renewables – excluding large-scale hydroelectric plants – will contribute 16% to the national energy mix.

Developing Biomass

Local agro-industrial group SIFCA estimates Côte d’Ivoire’s annual biomass production capacity at 12m tonnes, with significant feedstock at its disposal thanks to plentiful cocoa, coffee, sugar and oil palm plantations across the country. While some plants have already been using biomass to produce electricity for their own consumption, none of these have contributed to on-grid electricity generation.

SIFCA has joined with French electricity company, EDF to change this. Together, they are investing in the construction of the 42-MW Biokala biomass power plant in Aboisso, 116 km east of Abidjan. With an estimated cost of €100m, construction of the facility commenced in 2015. It is set become fully operational by 2018 as the largest biomass power plant in Africa, generating 288 GWh per year. According to SIFCA, the project is set to create around 800 direct and indirect jobs in the region, and generate an additional €30m in revenue for the palm oil industry. There are also plans for an 8.5-MW plant powered by biogas produced from the Akouédo landfill, starting in 2019.


In solar, the government is supporting the development of a 20-MW station in Korhogo, costing €32m and set to come on-line in 2017. According to the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme, Côte d’Ivoire has moderate solar potential, ranging from 2-4.5 KWh per sq metre per day, with an average of six hours of sunshine a day. The country’s annual potential for photovoltaic (PV) installations is 10,325 TWh. The levels of direct solar irradiation are highest in the north, where Korhogo is located.

There are also efforts to employ solar energy to isolated, off-the-grid communities and households through the deployment of mini-grids and PV equipment, in line with the 2030 Strategic Action Plan for the electricity segment. This is being undertaken as a temporary solution while authorities promote the expansion of electricity coverage, access and connection affordability for all in the country (see analysis).

Other ongoing projects include a 50-MW solar station in the Poro region, set to be operational in 2017. The government has also allocated CFA11.9bn (€17.9m) to the construction of the 125-MW Bocanda PV plant under the NDP. The National Steering Committee for Public-Private Partnership has also listed a series of biomass and solar energy projects requiring private investment, amounting to 405 MW, at a cost of CFA784.4bn (€1.2bn).

Legal Framework

Renewable energy development requires a number of factors, such as a clear legal framework, fiscal incentives, political will and financial support. Côte d’Ivoire approved an electricity code in 2014, and the implementing decrees were being clarified as of late 2016. “At the moment there are no fiscal incentives for the development of renewable energy, except for a reduced value-added tax (VAT) rate for PV equipment purchases,” Laurent De Block, consultant at technical engineering and consulting services firm MWH Global, told OBG. This VAT reduction must be approved regularly in the government’s annual budget. As for liberalisation of the energy sector, there is a clear desire to encourage private sector investment.