Solar Potential in West Africa Ranges from 8 GW to Over 20 GW by 2030: Report

The report by IRENA analyses three scenarios to lay down planning and prospects of renewable energy projects over the next 12 years

November 28, 2018


The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its report “Planning and prospects for renewable power: West Africa” has highlighted scenarios for the growth of renewables in West Africa’s power systems with respect to key national and regional targets.

The report assesses the energy statistics across 15 countries, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

The report builds on three scenarios that have been developed to better reflect the recent local and global context for renewable energy prospects in the region – a Reference Scenario, a Regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Renewable Energy Policy (EREP) Target Scenario, and a National Targets Scenario.

The Reference Scenario describes renewable energy deployment in the absence of any national or regional targets in the countries. This is based on a detailed project pipeline and range of other assumptions, with cost-competitiveness as the key driver for deployment of various technologies. It builds on the renewable promotion scenario from the 2013 version of a similar analysis conducted by IRENA, this is updated to reflect inputs from national experts, as well as the latest research from IRENA, particularly around resource availability and the cost of renewable energy technologies.

The Regional EREP (Economic Community of West African States’ Renewable Energy Policy) target scenario describes how the Reference Scenario changes with regional renewable targets set by the EREP, while the national targets scenario imposes national renewable targets based on specific input from national experts and/or Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) action agenda documents.

IRENA has utilized its models and presented the following key findings of the report:

  • The share of renewable power capacity increases in this report’s reference scenario to exceed EREP capacity targets, reaching 65% of peak load by 2030.
  • While renewable power capacity deployment in the reference scenario exceeds expectations, renewable generation in the same scenario is 6 percentage points short of the 31 % EREP target, reflecting the complexity of renewable energy target setting using various metrics. This is mainly due to dry-year assumptions used for hydropower generation, and a lower average capacity factor in the non-hydro renewable mix than assumed in the EREP target-setting process
  • The national renewable targets may deliver an even greater amount of renewable capacity relative to the Reference and Regional Target Scenarios, and in aggregate those targets do surpass the regional 2030 renewable generation target of 31% five years earlier than expected, resulting in a 38% share of renewable energy in total regional generation by 2030
  • Non-hydro renewables are expected to be the primary driver of new capacity additions across all scenarios in the mid to late 2020s, with solar PV (photovoltaic), wind and biomass generating 23% of total regional generation by 2030 in the National Targets Scenario
  • Projected solar PV installation in the ECOWAS region ranges from 8 gigawatts (GW) to over 20 GW by 2030
  • Development of all cross-border transmission infrastructure projects currently in the pipeline is expected to be beneficial across all scenarios analysed

The report underscores a regular process to continually update targets at all levels. According to IRENA, the west African region faces extreme energy security and access challenges. However, these countries are started harmonising various plans and policies to take advantage of the region’s renewable energy potential, with the help ECOWAS, which is providing a crucial co-ordination framework.

In March 2018, Mercom reported on the news of India pledging $1.4 billion to developing nations and west African countries such at a conference organized by the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

Recently, Mercom has also reported on the Abu Dhabi Fund committing $50 Million to IRENA recommended renewable energy projects.

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