HARDLY-HIT BY THE OIL-PRICE HIKE IN 2008, CONSTRAINED BY AN INADEQUATE ENERGY SYSTEM, SENEGAL HAS BEGUN TO EXPLOIT ITS IMMENSE RENEWABLE ENERGY POTENTIAL, WITH SOLAR POWER IN THE LEAD. THE NUMBER OF PROJECTS HAS BEEN RISING FOR TWO YEARS NOW, A PRIME EXAMPLE BEING SENERGY, THE COUNTRY'S FIRST PRIVATE SOLAR POWER PLANT AND THE LARGEST ONE IN WEST AFRICA, 80% FINANCED BY PROPARCO. THE AIM IS TO HELP BOOST SENEGAL’S ENERGY SECURITY AND FACILITATE THE TRANSITION TO LOW-CARBON DEVELOPMENT.
As in several other African countries, Senegal’s economic and social development is held back by sub-par performance in the energy sector. With 843 MW of nameplate power capacity in 2015 (whereas Morocco’s is ten times higher), the national power grid is ill-equipped to handle the growing needs of businesses and citizens alike. There are many reasons for that deficiency, among them over a decade of under-investment in generation capacity and Senegal’s high dependency on fossil fuels, with thermal power plants accounting for 90% of total output. But things got even worse in the period from 2008 to 2011, when the global oil shock upended the country’s energy sector. The result was massive power cuts and a profound social crisis, as demonstrated by the ‘electricity riots’ of 2011. Moreover, Senegal’s electricity prices are among the highest in West Africa (almost twice as high as in the Ivory Coast), despite a 2009 freeze on rates and generous State subsidies to the national power company, Senelec, until 2014. According to an IMF estimate, those subsidies are equal to 2% of GDP.