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Ivory Coast: Renewable energy for Ivorian villages

Too little known and undeveloped, renewable energy gradually integrates in the decision-making process by the Ivorian authorities and attracts strong investors – despite increasing funding difficulties.

In the bulletin n° 1397 of February 28 – March 7, 2017 of the Procurement newspaper, a public call for tenders attracts attention. The officials have to select companies to implement projects on the « electrification with solar energy in twenty-six coffee and cocoa producing villages. But between the surcharges for the producer and the costs for the user, the sector is still struggling to finance itself, despite a few solvent private investors.

1,000 billion for the solar

On January 29, the former Ivorian President Henri Konan Bédié laid the foundation stone for the photovoltaic energy production project of the Ivorian-Italian consortium which set up a branch, Daoukro Energies, for this purpose.

With CFA 1,000 billion (or € 1.6 billion), SERES Synergies Holding, a Limited Company, is looking forward to revolutionize the domestic use of the sun and other forms of non-fossil energy production. In Daoukro (located in the Center-East), a hybrid solar-thermal power plant will be set up before two other projects in Assinie (South-East) and Kotobi (South-East). For Daoukro Energies, there will have € 705,240,708 Euros, or CFA 462,637,904,448 billion and 350 MW for 300,000 households.

« The idea came to me in the years 1995, under President Bedie’s term, after noticing that the dams built under President Houphouet-Boigny’s term were no longer able to meet the demand due to the growing population, therefore of the households » said the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the company, Aimé Floriant Comoé N’da.

An ambitious but surtax goal

In March 2016, Daniel Kablan Duncan, then Prime Minister, pointed out the tremendous energy need. For energy self-sufficiency, the Ivory Coast must produce 4000 MW in 2020, a prerequisite to achieve its emerging vision. Alassane Ouattara promised power for all the villages of 500 inhabitants, a promise currently far to be kept due to the costly investment required upstream before serving the households.

Sunlight Energy, the largest supplier of solar energy equipment in Abidjan since 2013, through its managing director, Cédric Carpentier, has an unconvincing view of the goal. « We are overtaxed, and with us, the customers, at 18% of VAT, which does not encourage them and they wonder about the scope of this energy » said Cédric Carpentier disappointedly.

« Our largest market, estimated at CFA 400-500 million, focused on electrifying the Abobo-Anyama interurban road over at least 5 km. » However, Cedric, for whom there is still much to do in the Region, which could enhance the prospects, clearly said: « in the West African sub-region, the Ivory Coast is the least solar energy-developed country behind Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal »

Making things happen

Cédric Carpentier acknowledges that « not everybody can afford solar energy » due to high taxes. « For a house in Abidjan, you must pay CFA 4-5 million, which is far to be affordable. In rural areas, you must spend CFA 1.5 – 2 million for solar energy which is still luxury in the Ivory Coast. At Sunlight Energy, we have 25 years of guaranteed panels. We’re trying to make things happen gradually but it’s not easy…»

Could the political will help the transition to renewable energy and move the lines? The initiator of Daoukro Energy, Comoé N’da, replied in the affirmative: « liberalizing the electricity sector in the distribution sector » is one of the alternatives to boost the financing of the sector, because « this would create competition and thus lower the costs. »


Author: Issiaka N’guessan // Photo: Daoukro Power Station © Daoukro Energies

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