The Senegalese Rural Electrification Agency (ASER) has announced tenders for supplying mini-grids for the electrification of 117 villages through solar power. The project implementation is being undertaken by the Senegalese Ministry of Oil and Energy. Further, it is being financially supported by the Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development. The deadline for submission of bids is January 19, 2021.

As per the order of the Senegalese government, the equipment used for renewable energy generation has been exempted from value added tax being imposed on it. The renewable energy sources that come under this purview include solar, wind and biogas. In the case of solar power, the exemption concerns equipment such as the photovoltaic solar panel, the solar thermal collector or panel, the solar inverter, the solar battery, the solar water heater kit, the charge regulator, the solar lamp kit, the solar street lamp (comprising a solar panel, a battery and a lantern, editor’s note); as well as the solar pumping kit comprising a solar panel, a controller and a pump. This initiative is expected to reduce the acquisition costs of renewable energy production equipment by nearly 18 per cent.

The Senegalese government’s endeavours are part of a wider agenda aimed at achieving universal access to electricity in this West African country by 2025. The mini-grids project is being developed in a context marked by the democratisation of solar energy in the country and elsewhere in Africa.

West Africa is a region with unreliable electricity supply and a need for more developed electricity supply systems. Currently, only 50 per cent of the population in West Africa has access to electricity. Those who do have access to electricity pay among the highest prices in the World (more than double those of consumers in East Africa). In addition, due to operational deficiencies, electricity services are unreliable, with an average of 44 hours of outages per month. To combat this issue, earlier in August 2020, the World Bank group approved a $300 million grant to help Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone promote electricity trade within West Africa. The program supports trade in cleaner low-cost electricity generated from gas, hydro power and other renewable energy technologies.