Mali is preparing to host three very large photovoltaic solar power plants on its territory. French Journalist Jean Gecit contacted Souleymane Berthe, the Director General of the Renewable Energy Agency of Mali (AER-Mali) for more details and he confirmed to him that the projects are at a very advanced study phase and are set to continue despite the country having experience a military coup late last year.
The solar power plants project include the Fana (60 MWp), Sanankoroba (190 MWp) and Bougouni (50 MWp), with a total capacity of 300 MWp, and will have added storage capacities.
“These are regional power plants. They are projects initiated by the West African Power Pool (WAPP) and it is the Agency [AER-Mali] which is the focal point of the project,” said Souleymane Berthe.
“Our solar potential amounts between 5 to 7 kW per m² per day. Thanks to the plants, Mali will be able to meet its own energy needs and the rest can be exported to other [ECOWAS] countries. So during the day, you can be a producer and export energy; at night, if necessary, we can import energy from other countries as part of the energy exchange between the peoples of ECOWAS,” adds Berthe.
In addition, the regional solar parks make it possible to stabilise the WAPP network by ensuring a large, regular, reliable energy supply at a competitive price.
The total cost of the projects have not been officially communicated as studies to update the project are in progress. We can, however, indicate that the projects will benefit from the financial support of the World Bank.
For comparison, the World Bank valued the creation of a similar 300 MWp solar project in Burkina Faso at $370 million, in a report that goes by the name of Burkina Faso – Solar Energy Access and Project. In comparison to the Burkina Faso project, the Mali projects should cost around the same range.
“We have set a ceiling price of 65 FCFA / kWh. Without storage, the price was around 40 FCFA/kWh, but storage is very expensive, so we are going to install storage capacities so that the price does not exceed 65 FCFA per kWh,” remarked Berthe.
What schedule to adopt in the face of delays?
Once these studies are completed, the plants will be created by the private sector, through auctions. The commissioning of the power plants depends on a timetable which still needs to be clarified: “It’s in phases. The World Bank deemed it necessary to update the studies. We should wait until 2022 or 2023 to start observing the first phases of the power plants,” underlines Souleymane Berthe.
It must be said that the studies took longer than expected and that the realisation of the project depends on other factors: “For these three power stations to see the light of day, there must be a 225 kW network,” specifies the Director General. The evolution of this huge project therefore depends on the installation of a high-capacity network that will export the energy produced and ensure the viability of the WAPP network.
Does the coup threaten the future of the project?
Mali has been affected by two military coups in 2020 and 2021 which may have impacted project delivery. Asked if there should be major disruption to the fixed schedule, Souleymane Berthe said; “No, the coup will not change anything. The studies were completed at the time of the coup and the updating of these studies began during this period. So I don’t think it’s going to play too much on the calendar. Updating the studies is continuing with the World Bank and the work has not stopped with the [ECOWAS] sanctions so far.”
“But I think that reaching a certain level, if it lasts, we won’t be able to progress because the payments will stop. But for the moment we are working,” Berthe remarked.