World Bank Group Financing West Africa Power Project

An agency associated with the World Bank will finance installation of solar and hydropower systems, and support related transmission and distribution infrastructure, to provide more electricity to areas of West Africa.

The World Bank Group’s International Development Association (IDA) is investing $311 million into the Regional Emergency Solar Power Intervention Project (RESPITE), an initiative designed to benefit new and existing electricity customers across West Africa. The project’s focus is to improve the pace of grid connections for renewable energy, and strengthen the regional power grid.

The World Bank in a late December report said the West African region has one of the lowest rates of electricity access, and some of the highest electricity costs, on the African continent. Higher oil prices have contributed to financial problems for West African power companies, with oil used as a main fuel to produce power. The World Bank said the RESPITE program is the group’s response to the ongoing power crisis in West Africa, and will support the deployment of renewable energy installations.

Grant for Regional Power Trading

The RESPITE program includes a $20 million grant to support future regional power trading, along with improving the institutional and technical systems of the West African Power Pool (WAPP).

IDA as part of the initiative will finance the installation of 106 MW of photovoltaic solar power with energy storage. It also will support another 41 MW of hydropower generation capacity. The nations of Togo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Chad also will benefit from upgrades to the regional electricity transmission and distribution grid.

Rhonda Jordan-Antoine, leader of the RESPITE program for the World Bank, said the program will bring “substantial benefits” for the region, and support new energy solutions.

“Solutions supported by the new project are manyfold and have substantial benefits for the countries and the region. Among others, it will provide fiscal space for countries to address food crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine, initiate development of competitively tendered grid-connected clean energy to alleviate current power supply crisis, positively address climate change by helping countries to move away from expensive and polluting fuels, and help synchronize the WAPP network to enhance regional integration in the energy sector,” said Jordan-Antoine.

Regional Integration Efforts

Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Regional Integration for Sub-Saharan Africa, said that in addition to improving the reliability of electricity supply in those four countries, the project’s regional approach will enhance the potential of power trading in West Africa.

“RESPITE provides benefits that spill over country boundaries and complements existing regional integration efforts in the energy sector involving all member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)”, said Guermazi. “It provides economies of scale, increases potential for regional trade through investments in transmission and generation infrastructure to integrate the markets physically, and develops regional public good by facilitating knowledge sharing and capacity building.”

The IDA is the World Bank’s fund to support the world’s poorest nations. The program, established in 1960, provides grants and low- to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve the quality of life in those counties. The association is among the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa, according to the World Bank, which said that since its inception the IDA has supported development work in 113 countries.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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