Solar remains a plausible investment opportunity in the Republic of Senegal in western Africa. The country has a democratic government and should be a great place for foreign investors interested in solar and renewable energy. Using the natural port of Dakar, it is within easy reach of the US and European markets. With a stable political history and a pro-market government since 2000 Senegal is under the direction of the IMF and world bank.
As attractive as that sounds, home solar kits investments are slow in coming largely because the world seems to be pre-wired to lump all African countries into one continued conflict when brought into a discussion.
The UN has said that investing in solar energy could bring electricity to millions in Senegal, significantly reduce electricity bills and attract millions of dollars in development funding under the UN Clean Development Mechanism but only with increased investor participation in a journal post for ESI Africa.
Rising fuel costs have increased the attractiveness of solar installation and “If you reduce fuel oil import costs it will do a tremendous amount to save money for government investment in schools, hospitals and other development activities to help the poor.” said UN Environmental program spokesperson, Nick Nuttall.
With only one in four Senegalese having access to grid electricity, Senegal must now invest in solar renewable energy.
According to Louis Seck, head of Senegal’s solar renewable energy department, the country has seen a fivefold increase in its fuel bill between 2005 and 2008.
“Research suggests that by tapping into just a small section of the solar energy resources of the Sahara desert, you could theoretically produce enough energy to fuel the entire planet,” said Nuttall.
Senegal gets ample sunshine and if solar power stations can be set up on uncultivable land, Senegal would be “an ideal location for solar energy development and electrical generation”, Nuttall continued.
According to Nuttal, solar is an easy way to provide off-grid solar access to electricity.
Abdoulaye Fall, head of environmental quality and safety at the National Confederation of Employers in Senegal, said solar power could save money in the long term. It has been estimated that the cost of producing 1 Kw hour of electricity from solar can be halved from the current US$18.40 for conventional generation.
However, the biggest challenge facing the wide scale roll out of solar investment products is that most projects are expensive, and the government needs more money. It has not been easy to attract private investors at anywhere near a large enough scale said Seck, due to perceptions that Senegal is too risky a place to invest. Investing directly in solar renewable schemes is an “unattractive” prospect, according to Seck, because of its large debt burdens, its poor equipment and outdated infrastructure, and government involvement.
Legislators from across West Africa came together in Ghana in late September 2008 to urge regional leaders to form a West African Renewable Energy Community to promote solar renewable energy projects. They also agreed to push leaders across the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to pass stronger laws to protect investors in solar renewable energy schemes.