The World Bank has said The Gambia could be one of the first countries in West Africa to attain universal access to electricity.
A World Bank team visited Banjul to take stock of progress in the energy sector since the crisis period in 2017, when the Bank provided emergency assistance to the new administration with addressing the immediate challenges, the bank said in a statement.
“The OMVG interconnector is a crucial infrastructure that will enable The Gambia to access clean, reliable and affordable electricity from the West Africa Power Pool. The interconnector will also provide a backbone for the country, from which electrification activities can be done. The race is now on –The Gambia could be one of the first counties in West Africa to achieve universal access,” said Mr. Charles Cormier, the World Bank Practice Manager for Energy and Extractives in West Africa, during a field visit to the Brikama Substation, the landing point of OMVG for the Greater Banjul Area.
The energy sector roadmap identified key short priorities to stabilize the system, and medium-term priorities including the goal to achieve universal access by 2025, and diversify the energy mix through imports and solar to reduce the cost of electricity. The roadmap, as part of the National Development Plan, helped to mobilize over $400 million in funding for the energy sector, to which the World Bank contributed $175 million (40%) through national and regional operations
One of the key regional projects being supported by the World Bank is the OMVG Regional Interconnection Project. By interconnecting The Gambia to Senegal, Guinea and Guinea Bissau, the Project supports the goals spelled out in the roadmap.
“Improvement achieved in quality of service through generation expansion and improved network stability is indeed noteworthy,” said Mr. Chris Trimble, Senior Energy Specialist and Task Team Leader for the World Bank energy portfolio in The Gambia, “System-wide blackouts reduced from 15-20 per day in 2017 to 1-2 per day today. NAWEC’s parallel efforts to improve its efficiency translated in reduction of network losses to 19 percent in 2019 from 28 percent in 2015.”
Under the ECOWAS Regional Access Project, the World Bank is providing a $66 million grant to build the medium and low voltage networks from the OMVG substations at Soma and Brikama, aiming to connect around 100,000 households to the grid. Through The Gambia Electricity Restoration and Modernization Project, the Bank is financing similar activities in the Central River Region and the Upper River Region. Together, these investments will help increase access rate from about 56 percent today to near universal access. Moreover, the Project co-finances a 20 MW solar plant with storage to improve access to renewable energy. A feasibility study for a 150MW regional solar plant, financed by the Bank will further promote the country’s renewable agenda.
“There are major disruptions taking place in the energy sectors in West Africa, including solar costs which are plummeting and the creation of a regional power market, and we are well positioned to grasp both opportunities” commented Mr. Alpha Robinson, Managing Director for NAWEC. “We have heard the desires of our customers to have lower cost, reliable and clean energy, and with the support of partners like the World Bank, we have a pathway to deliver on this vision for all Gambians”.
The World Bank’s significant investments in electricity infrastructure are coupled with substantial institutional support to NAWEC to improve its operational and financial performance. With the improvements already registered in operational efficiency and financial restructuring, the level of subsidies to NAWEC has significantly reduced, a trend which is expected to continue.