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World Bank kicks off $311Mn renewable energy project for West Africa

The World Bank last week signed the legal agreements for the US$311 million Regional Emergency Solar Power Intervention Project (RESPITE) project, which seeks to increase electricity access to millions of existing and prospective consumers in West Africa. The beneficiary countries will include Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

The project targets to rapidly increase grid-connected renewable energy capacity and strengthen regional integration in the participating countries.

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.

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 His Excellency 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,” he added.

Improving electricity access and reducing emissions in West Africa

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. It 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.

“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.

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