Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 February 2023:
Activities under the new Regional Emergency Solar Power Intervention Project (RESPITE) have officially kicked off in Freetown to increase electricity access to millions of existing and prospective consumers in Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
According to a World Bank statement published yesterday, RESPITE – a $311 million regional project supported by the World Bank and approved on December 20, 2022, with legal agreements signed today – aims to rapidly increase grid-connected renewable energy capacity and strengthen regional integration in the participating countries.
The World Bank says that West Africa has one of the lowest electrification rates, with 220 million people living without access, coupled with some of the highest electricity costs in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Rising oil prices – as a consequence of the war in Ukraine – have increased the liabilities of electricity utilities, and countries are facing an acute power supply crisis that threatens their economic growth, the World Bank statement reads.
Furthermore, countries in the region rely on oil-based power plants to meet growing demand. In addition to the negative impact on the climate, this leads to increasingly higher tariffs for consumers.
“We are paying far more for energy now than we were 18 months ago. Very high and rising energy prices continue to have an adverse impact on other sectors of our economies,” said President Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, who presided the official signing of RESPITE’s financial agreements, in the presence of official delegations from Chad, Liberia, Togo, the West Africa Power Pool, the World Bank, and other key stakeholders.
“This regional intervention is much needed in the short term. Today, our countries are taking a bold step in the right direction. RESPITE is the beginning of a revolution in energy supply and access,” the president added.
RESPITE will help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by financing the installation and operation of approximately 106 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power with batteries and storage systems, 41 megawatts expansion of hydroelectric power capacity, and by supporting electricity distribution and transmission interventions across the four countries.
The project also includes a regional approach, providing $20 million to help the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) to enhance the potential for power trade in West Africa and to facilitate knowledge sharing among ECOWAS member countries.
As highlighted by Mr. Bernard Hessou, WAPP Director of Planning, Investment Programming and Environmental Safeguards, “RESPITE fully supports the WAPP in achieving its goals of expanding access to competitive and climate-friendly electricity supplies for ECOWAS citizens. It will help create new opportunities for improving the quality of life while providing additional support to the WAPP in the preparation of its priority projects and in the establishment of a regional electricity market across the ECOWAS countries.”
According to the World Bank, RESPITE offers a more sustainable and affordable solution to a cleaner energy sector and will pave the way for the ambitious expansion of clean energy generation in the future in West Africa.
As part of the launch, a Regional Energy Sector Roundtable was held prior to the Signing Ceremony to specifically discuss how deployment of renewable energy can help countries lower costs, reduce emissions, and ensure universal energy access to support economic transformation in West Africa.
“RESPITE complements other existing regional projects by adding the first competitively and publicly procured clean and affordable renewable energy to the region’s power mix, while also enhancing regional integration, expanding the potential for power trade, and improving the enabling environment for integration of renewable energy in the future,” said Ms. Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Regional Integration for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Northern Africa.