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The Gambia receives backing for €142mn renewable energy programme

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Access to clean energy in The Gambia is set to be transformed under a new €142mn initiative to harness solar power and supply clean energy across the country, backed by the European Investment Bank, World Bank and European Union. 

Once operational, the scheme will increase energy supply in The Gambia by 20% and transform electricity access in rural communities through the construction of new power transmission and distribution infrastructure, and a new photovoltaic plant near Banjul on the west coast. 

Roughly 400km of distribution infrastructure are planned for the project, bringing 20MW of solar energy to the nation. The project will increase access to energy, ensure that education and health services benefit from reliable power and help to address current power shortages in the country. 

At present, less than half the population of The Gambia have access to electricity, and in rural areas only 15% of people are connected to the energy network. Electricity costs in the country are far higher than neighbouring countries and fluctuate due to a reliance on imported diesel.
Under the new scheme, all 1,000 schools and 100 health centres in rural parts of The Gambia that currently have limited electricity access are expected to benefit from a more reliable energy supply facilitated by improved connectivity, off-grid solar and battery systems. 

‘Investment in The Gambia’s energy infrastructure is essential to improve economic opportunities and daily lives in our country, and this new project demonstrates how harnessing the power of the sun can power The Gambia in the years ahead,’ said Ousainu Darboe, Vice President of the Republic of Gambia, in a statement. 

The European Investment Bank’s support, its first engagement in The Gambia since 1991 and the largest ever financing for investment in The Gambia, was formally signed by Maria Shaw-Barragan, Director for Lending Operations outside Europe, at a ceremony in Banjul on 4 March.

Attila Lajos, European Union Ambassador to the Republic of Gambia, said: ‘The Gambia will be the first country in Africa, if not the only country in the world, to have provided renewable energy electrification for all public school and health facilities. The project is designed to assure the sustainable provision of electricity powered by the solar systems for at least 20 years and to lay the groundwork for a national solar energy industry to provide additional services in the future.’ 

The European Union will provide €106mn for the clean energy programme to be implemented by national electricity utility NAWEC. This includes €65mn under a 25-year long-term concessional loan from the European Investment Bank and a €41mn grant from the European Union budget. The project will also be supported by €35.7mn financing from the World Bank.

Energy demand in The Gambia has grown by 5.5% a year in recent years and the new 20 MW solar power plant to the national energy grid will both significantly increase The Gambia’s current generation capacity of 98MW and enable electrification of rural areas.  

A dedicated part of the European funding will support feasibility and environmental studies, technical training, new infrastructure to connect social services and regulatory assistance to allow renewable energy to be supplied to the NAWEC.

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