There are over 220,000 individual electricity customers (public and private) in the country, and the number could significantly increase with the government’s stated goal of achieving universal access by 2025.
Services have historically been primarily concentrated in the GBA, though there are efforts underway to install electrical mini-grids in underserved areas outside of the capital. Integration with regional sources of generation and transmission are underway as well. While the electrification rate has increased to over 50% in recent years, which is relatively high in comparison to regional averages, this conceals a significant urban/rural divide in access to electricity in a country where a large part of the population lives in the GBA and where 69% of the population has an electricity connection, however only 28% of the rural population has access to electricity10.
The Gambia has committed to ambitious plans in the near term, including President Barrow’s desire to achieve universal electrical access by 2025, as well as a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions in alignment with the 2015 Paris Accords, with a focus on imports from Senegal, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire, and domestic solar generation. Current, committed and candidate sources of power per the Energy Sector Road Map are detailed in Table 1 below. While The Gambia has historically relied significantly on heavy fuel oil (HFO) for its domestic generation, there has been recent progress towards regional integration and the prioritization of renewables, such as solar.
In 2022, the U.S. government’s Millenium Challenge Corportation (MCC) launched a Threshold Agreement with the aim of improving The Gambia’s access to clean, reliable electricity.
Consumers also pay a high cost for power in The Gambia – the average tariff of $0.23/kilowatt hour (kWh) is one of the highest in the world. This is a result of high costs to produce and supply electricity, driven by expensive imports of HFO for NAWEC’s generators. Despite the high tariff, NAWEC continues to be unable to cover its basic costs of operations, let alone major investments. Revenues are depressed as a result of losses, collections challenges, and, until recently, public institutions and street lighting arrears.
1. Bio-fuel: Biomass based resources also offers an alternative source of energy. Many crops, such as groundnuts, have a huge residue-to-kernel ratio and could be a valuable supply source of bio-matter as fuel.
2. Hydro-power: The African Development Bank and the World Bank are completing a regional project implemented by OMVG that will provide hydro-electric power via dams in Senegal and Guinea to Senegal, Guinea, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. The project is ongoing in 2020.
3. Renewable Energy: The government has established Gambia Renewable Energy Center (GREC) and seeks to collaborate with interested entities for the development of renewable energy through Research and Development. The government is encouraging use of other energy sources and at the moment utilization of solar PV equipment is increasing in the country for both industrial, commercial and domestic uses (the country receives roughly 3,000 hours of sunshine yearly); use of biomass is also on the increase though it tends to be restricted to agricultural waste such as saw dust, groundnut shells, straw. Use of windmills for powering water pumps is also encouraged and is increasing throughout the country.
4. Solar: The potential for solar energy is immense. The minimum daily solar production capacity of The Gambia is 4kWh solar power radiation per square meter. The National Development Plan (NDP) seeks to increase the share of renewable energy from 2 to 40 percent.
5. Wind: Wind energy is the only renewable source that has previously fed into the national grid, but this was short-lived due to mismanagement by the former regime. Most effective in the coastal region between the (winter/spring) months of January and May, wind is a highly variable source of energy.
The GOTG has expressed a commitment to diversify its energy mix by adding solar to the grid. While awaiting first gas in 2023, the government plans to import LNG as a bridging measure, and convert all current HFO plants to gas-to-power plants. The $20 million MCC Compact offers oppportunities for EPC, consulting firms, grid extension and rural electrification companies. OMVS and OMVG offer opportunities for EPC and consulting firms, for example in environmental studies. Energy efficiency also presents a significant opportunity to investors and businesses. Advanced metering solutions with smart meters are also of interest since.