BY Awa Touray
The Government of the Gambia, in collaboration with the European Union and the World Bank has on Monday, 4th April 2019, launched an electricity project worth 142 million euros.
The project is aimed at harnessing solar power and supply clean energy across the country. It is backed by the European Investment Bank. The project according to the stakeholders, will increase energy supply in the Gambia by one-fifth and transform electricity access in rural communities through construction of a new photovoltaic plant at Jambur and new power transmission and distribution infrastructure. They said the project will increase access to energy, ensure that education and health services benefit from reliable power and help to address current power shortages in the country.
A press release from the European Investment Bank indicated that the Gambia will be the first country in Africa, if not the only country in the world, to have provided renewable energy electrification for all public schools and health facilities. The Gambia being the first country in the world to ensure all its 1,100 rural schools and health centres benefit from reliable energy supply using solar and battery technology, 20MW solar energy and 400km distribution project to transform energy access and cut costs and also the first European Investment Bank engagement in Gambia since 1991.
Speaking at the launch of the renewable energy programme, Atila Lajos, the EU Ambassador to the Gambia said about 792,000 total patients (estimated for 2017) in the country’s 100 public health facilities and about 400,000 pupils and students attending public schools will directly benefit from the project, as well as hundreds of health facility and school staff working and living in the buildings that will be electrified by the photovoltaic systems.
He also said that in health facilities, electricity will enable provision of night-time care services and the use of medical devices, adding it will improve management of the cold chain and the electrification of staff quarters will foster retention of staff, particularly in the more remote areas.
Mr. Mamburry Njie, Minister of Finance & Economic Affairs, mentioned the three components which will be financed by the European Investment Bank . He said one of them was an increase in generation capacity through an old on-grid utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) plant with a total installed capacity of up to 20 MW, including an associated battery energy storage station (BESS).
Maria Shaw-Barragan, European Investment Bank Director responsible for lending operations outside Europe, said in the last five years, the EIB has provided EUR 50 billion of new financing for long- term energy investment around the world that has supported more than EUR 200 billion of total new investment in the sector.