West African States Kick Off $311 Million Project to Boost Renewables
Millions to receive electricity access in Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo
The new Regional Emergency Solar Power Intervention Project (RESPITE) has commenced operations in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to expand electricity access to millions of consumers in Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
The $311 million project, supported by the World Bank, aims to accelerate renewable energy capacity connected to the grid and improve regional integration among participating countries.
RESPITE aims to combat greenhouse gas emissions by financing the implementation of 106 MW of solar power with battery and storage systems, a 41 MW expansion of hydroelectric power capacity, and supporting electricity distribution and transmission efforts across four countries.
The project takes a regional approach and allocates $20 million to boost the potential for power trade in West Africa through the West Africa Power Pool and facilitate knowledge exchange among the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member nations.
West Africa is facing a significant electrification challenge, with 220 million people lacking access to electricity and among the highest electricity costs in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The conflict in Ukraine has caused a rise in oil prices, exacerbating the financial strain on electricity utilities and leading to an acute energy crisis that threatens economic growth.
Currently, the region relies heavily on oil-powered plants to meet growing demand, which negatively impacts the environment and results in higher and higher tariffs for consumers.
“We are paying far more for energy now than we were 18 months ago. Very high and rising energy prices continue to have an adverse impact on other sectors of our economies,” said Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone. “This regional intervention is much needed in the short term. Today, our countries are taking a bold step in the right direction. RESPITE is the beginning of a revolution in energy supply and access,” he added.
RESPITE will provide a more sustainable and cost-effective solution for a cleaner energy sector and set the foundation for further growth in clean energy generation in West Africa.
According to a report published by the Africa Solar Industry Association, Africa added 989 MW of solar capacity in 2022, a 14% year-over-over growth.
In a report last year, International Renewable Energy Agency and African Development Bank said a calibrated policy framework centered on renewable energy could help resolve many of Africa’s social, economic, health, and environmental challenges.