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USTDA Hosts Mini-grid Workshop Organized by ANSI under U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Standards Program in Senegal

11/29/2018

On November 13-14, 2018, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) hosted the "West Africa Mini-grids Workshop: Technological Advances, Regulatory Framework, and Quality Assurance" in Dakar, Senegal. The workshop was organized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) under the USTDA-funded U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Standards Program (CESP), and was co-hosted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) as part of ECREEE's Sustainable Energy Forum.

Solar mini-grids are an increasingly viable solution for providing remote populations with affordable and reliable electricity access. Across West Africa, and in countries like Senegal where only 34 percent of the rural population has access to electricity, mini-grids present a promising alternative to traditional grid infrastructure. U.S. experts gave presentations, as well as Senegalese and other African experts from both the public and private sectors, who addressed quality assurance, system planning, energy storage systems, data management, metering, and other important aspects of mini-grid development.

The workshop attracted more than 100 participants, including attendees from six African countries. The event provided a thorough background on Senegal's policy landscape for mini-grid development as well as detailed information on standards-related and technical solutions to support the viability and management of existing and future off-grid systems across West Africa.

The workshop featured 25 expert speakers from the U.S., Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal. These experts included 12 U.S. speakers from Alpha Technologies, FRAYM, HOMER Energy, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), MRIGlobal, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Odyssey Energy Solutions, Power Africa Transactions and Reforms Program (PATPR), PowerGen, Princeton Power, Renewvia, and Schneider Electric. U.S. companies have unique technology and both hard and software that can help West Africa ensure electricity reaches everyone, even in the most remote locations.

Presentations and photos from the workshop are available on the CESP website: www.standardsportal.org/us-africacesp.

Background on the Senegalese Mini-grid Market

With a stable political and economic environment, including a stable currency and a strong annual GDP growth rate, Senegal is a good market for long-term investment The government of Senegal (GoS) began promoting private sector participation in the energy sector in 1998 when they adopted the “Electricity Law (98-29)”, which provides the opportunity for private sector involvement through a process of concessions and licensing, overseen by an independent regulator that was later established as the Commission de Regulation du Secteur de l’Electricite (CRSE). Today SENELEC, the national utility, generates approximately 63 percent of the country’s electricity, with the remaining 37 percent coming from independent power producers (IPPs).

Senegal has the potential to increase energy access through significant untapped solar resources and the use of off-grid systems. Currently, Senegal has an overall electricity access rate of approximately 60 percent in urban areas, and only about 33 percent in rural areas. Recognizing that large-scale grid extension will not meet the needs of many remote communities, the GoS seeks to promote off-grid solutions including mini-grids, solar home systems, and other decentralized solutions. These initiatives are termed Local Rural Electrification Initiatives (ERIL), which may be implemented by private companies, NGOs, and community groups. Additionally, the GoS has put together a concessionary approach to private sector electricity generation in off-grid areas through the establishment of large-scale concession schemes that divide the country into 10 Priority Rural Electrification Programs (Programmes Prioritaires d’Electrification Rurale).

Six of these concessions were awarded over the last few years to national and international companies for a period of 25 years, and the four remaining concessions were awarded this year (2018) to SENELEC, the Senegalese national utility company. A tariff system is in place that offers predictable long-term returns, giving private-sector operators the potential for up to a 12-percent internal rate of return over a project life of 15 years. The urgency in the sector is paired with a recognition of the social inequity in electricity prices between urban and rural populations, which has pushed the GoS toward harmonization of tariffs with a substantial rural consumption subsidy. Existing concessionaires are working to build out their mini-grid footprint but often lack the technology, equipment, technical standards, and expertise to meet the demand in their concessions and thus could benefit from U.S. partnerships.

The U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Standards Program (CESP) and ANSI

The event was the fourth of five workshops coordinated by ANSI under the second phase of the USTDA-funded U.S.-Africa CESP. The remaining workshop in this phase will likely focus on energy storage systems in South Africa.

The CESP provides a platform for industry and government representatives from the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa to cooperate on standardization issues relevant to clean energy technologies and build the relationships necessary for further technical exchange. CESP also supports Power Africa’s objectives, helping create an enabling environment and capacity of governments and private sector entities to increase both on-grid and off-grid energy access.

Organizations interested in participating in or co-sponsoring a CESP workshop are invited to complete the commercial benefit questionnaire here. All workshop proposals are subject to USTDA's review and approval.

For more information on the U.S.-Africa CESP and the “Standards to Promote Interoperability” workshop, including access to the presentations, agenda, photos, and flyer, please visit www.standardsportal.org/us-africacesp.

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