The GAMBIA in focus: The use of solar or renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa
Researched and written by Yankuba Jarju.
One of the major challenges faced by countries in Sub-Sahara Africa is lack of access to electricity which has also posed as a significant obstacle to socio-economic development in the region. At present, over 600 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity while over 780 million people rely solely on traditional solid biomass such as firewood and agricultural waste for cooking.
Already various concerns have been raised about the emission of carbon from traditional coal-fired and the projected tripling in energy demand in the Sub-Sahara region by 2013 which makes renewable energy essential for power generation in the region.
However, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have great potentials for renewable energy deployment and investment due to its high supply of wind, sunshine, hydropower and even geothermal resources. Already, so many countries in the Sub-Sahara Africa are mapping out ways of developing their renewable energy sources and leveraging on this to provide an alternative source of energy to the people especially those in the rural community.
Countries like Angola have developed the Angola 2025 goal which is aimed at providing modern electricity to about 60 percent of its population. The story is not different in Morocco which is liberalizing its renewable sector by increasing the threshold of hydro power plants from 12 MWs to 30 MWs and also establishing the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy to carry out programs for solar energy generation.
Renewable Energy in Gambia
In recent years, Gambia has witnessed a rapid growth in its population which has made the demand for energy far outstripped what the state-owned utility can supply. In addition, the gross consumption of energy in Gambia at present is over 223.20 million kWh per year.
However, Gambia geographical location positions the country as a great source of renewable energy. On a yearly basis, the country receives 2,500 hours of sunshine and the daily solar energy potential is an average 2.5 kJ per square centimeter area (2.5KJ/cm2).
To leverage on this, the Gambian government is encouraging its citizens to make use of alternative energy such as solar PV cells for domestic, commercial and industrial use. The government also established the Gambia Renewable Energy Center (GREC) which seeks to collaborate with companies, individuals, development charities, international organizations and research entities to develop the renewable energy sector in the Gambia.
This collaboration is already yielding results with interest shown by Electric Solar, an Italian firm interested in generation 10 MW of electricity using municipal solid waste (MSW) and miscanthus grass in the Gambia.
Furthermore, one of the major challenges of widespread utilization of renewable energy in Gambia is the cost of investment which is far above the reach of many Gambians. For instance, a 55 Wp solar PV cost about D11, 000 while a 75 Wp costs about D16, 000.
If the Gambian Government is truly interested in providing a better and reliable alternative source of energy to the people, it must map out ways of ensuring that every Gambian both those resident in the city and rural community can afford a solar energy panel and be taught ways of generating renewable energy without relying on government.
- image reference: AXITEC