The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is set to enhance sustainable electricity access through solar in 19 countries in West Africa and the Sahel region to promote development in the region.
This is the outcome of a meeting of stakeholders from the energy sector at a regional workshop to develop modalities to implement the Regional Off-Grid Electrification Project (ROGEP) which held in Accra, Ghana.
ROGEP aims to enhance electricity access in West Africa and the Sahel region through standalone solar systems including solar lanterns, solar home systems, solar water pumps and solar mills, among others.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Energy and Mines, Mr SÃ©diko Douka, told theÂ News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)Â that only 40 per cent of the population within the region had access to electricity supply.
â€œThe objective of the meeting is to see mechanisms for the implementation of the project because close to 200 million have no access to electricity and this project is very welcome to increase electricity access.
â€œOur team at the ECOWAS Commission just resumed in March and within our four-year mandate, our objective is to increase electricity access to at least 60 per cent of the population.
â€œWe have been having several energy meetings within the energy sector andÂ on ThursdayÂ we will have the meeting of all ECOWAS ministers of energy,â€ Douka said.
He added that the project, sponsored by the World Bank, would “kick off in 2019â€.
The project, with an estimated overall budget ofÂ $200Â million, includes 19 countries.
They are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote dâ€™Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad and Mauritania.
The Practice Manager, Energy and Extractive Global Practice of the World Bank Group, Wendy Hughes, said that the off-grid technology had shown to provide â€œreal and sustainable alternative to grid electricityâ€.
Hughes added that the cooperation of member countries in building â€œa large, unified off-grid solar market will increase access to these modern energy devicesâ€.
â€œAdopting common quality standards for solar off-grid products that are uniform across the entire region will in effect create a single large market that will be far more attractive to private solar companies,” Hughes said.
She further advised member states to work together to develop a comprehensive regional standard that would identify individual countryâ€™s priorities.
The project, developed in December 2015, would be implemented by the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) in January 2019.
The Executive Director, ECREEE, Mr Mahama Kappiah, said modalities were put in place to train local entrepreneurs in the energy sector to ensure ownership of the project and affordable energy for member states.
â€œOne way we are trying to make energy affordable through this project is using our local entrepreneurs, not foreign entrepreneurs or those who call themselves expatriates and pay themselves very high salaries we have to pay for.
â€œWe are also providing finance to these entrepreneurs and for the first phase, we haveÂ $140Â million as credit line that will go to these local entrepreneurs which they can contract through the commercial banks at very low interest rate,â€ he said.
Kappiah said that training had begun with 48 entrepreneurs from the 19 countries on adopting effective models to ensure the viability of the project.
He said that the World Bank was supporting the first phase of the project withÂ $200Â million, adding that member states were not financially supporting the project â€œfor nowâ€.
â€œOnly a credit line scheme that we have negotiated with the World Bank that we put at the disposal of our private enterprises solely for this job.
â€œFrom January, theÂ $140Â million will kick in from monies made available by the World Bank,â€ he said.(NAN)