By Aisha Tamba
Stakeholders in the energy sector Wednesday gathered at a local hotel in Senegambia for a day-long inception workshop of the Green Mini-Grid (GMG) country support programme for The Gambia.
The programme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy with support from the African Development Bank through the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (Sefa).
The meeting was designed for a presentation of report and the gathering of feedbacks from all stakeholders, which will guide the Ministry and the consultant in developing appropriate GMG policy framework for The Gambia that is stable and long-lived, clear and comprehensive, efficient and cost-effective, transparent and predictable.
The report was submitted by Economic Consulting Association Ltd (ECA) of the United Kingdom and 3E of Belgium as the first deliverable for the assignment.
The permanent secretary of the energy ministry, Lamin Camara, said the GMG is a flagship project of Sefa to support eligible countries develop the enabling framework and investment programme for green mini-grids in order to increase energy access and stimulate socio-economic development.
“For those of us hearing green mini-grids for the first time, these involve localised small-scale electricity generation powered in part or wholly by renewable energy and the distribution of electricity to a limited number of customers through a distribution network that can operate in isolation from the national electricity transmission grid, yet supply electricity at grid-quality level.
“Mini-grids have become a distinct and viable approach to off-grid electrification, particularly in rural areas,” PS Camara explained.
He added that in order to achieve universal access to electricity by 2040, 70 percent of currently non-electrified rural villages will need to be connected through off-grid/mini-grid solutions, according to estimates from the International Energy Agency.
He reported that in order to meet these aspirations, the government has a target to connect one-third of the rural population through off-grid solutions by 2030, which includes mini-grids and stand-alone home systems.
“However,” he said, “this target cannot be readily achieved without establishing the regulatory framework to stimulate both public and private investments in off-grid electrification.
“It is within this context that we are developing the enabling policy and regulatory environment under the GMG project to attract private sector to develop green mini-grids to supply electricity rural communities in The Gambia, thereby improving their standard of living and stimulating socio-economic activities. Other areas of key intervention for the project include project development and financing and capacity building,” he said.
Fafa Sanyang, minister of Petroleum and Energy, said the government of The Gambia, under the leadership of President Adama Barrow, recognises the critical role that energy plays in the socio-economic development and economic growth of this country.
He called it a “a top priority” as outlined in President Barrow’s National Development Plan.
“To achieve this laudable goal, we have realised the need to promote off-grid solutions such as green mini-grid, the subject of today’s workshop, to complement the existing grid expansion; which alone is not a viable strategy, as some communities are too distant to be economically connected in short to medium term.
“This option of electrification has become an important vehicle for increased electricity access in many developing countries,” he said.