Throughout this year ALER will invite those responsible for the case studies of successful mini-grids operating in Portuguese-speaking countries to present their projects, which will be later compiled in the Portuguese version of the Mini-Grid Policy Toolkit (MGPT). Our first invitation was addressed to Águas de Ponta Preta (APP) in Cape Verde, to present the Monte Trigo project which celebrated its fifth anniversary this year. This is the only case study already included in the current version of MGPT, which is available here.
Monte Trigo, 100% powered by solar energy, represents and confirms the relevance of the country's commitment to Renewable Energies due to Cape Verde’s features. A 42-year-old independent country which integrates unique characteristics that, at the same time, foster opportunities as well as impose structural vulnerabilities such as insularity, smallness, isolation, discontinuity and territorial fragmentation, dry tropical climate and a multiplicity of ecosystems (mountain, desert).
These particularities condition Cape Verde into a small and fragmented market completely dependent on imports and global markets levies and an unavoidable need of services and infrastructures proliferation (e.g. each island needs a power plant etc.) and recurrent resources. This scenario challenges the country to local solutions and national strategies in order to deal with an energy sector exposed to external shocks, unpredictable economic cycles and strong dependence on international markets. This awareness has been manifested and placed in the country spotlight, through different political and strategic tools.
Energy security, energy generation and distribution system's sustainability, and energy efficiency remain the main challenges for Cape Verde’s energy sector. Using and benefiting from endogenous renewable resources for energy generation was chosen by the Cape Verdean government as one of the main focus to address development and economic growth problems, and it is assumed as an alternative and solution within its strategic-political and planning tools. The exploitation and valorization of these resources are one of the main strategies for reducing energy dependence, the external deficit and the non-subordination to external markets volatility.
Monte Trigo is a symbolic contribution to this transitional process of the energy sector reform, already set at a national level. The Monte Trigo photovoltaic power plant celebrated the fifth year of uninterrupted, continuous and safe activity in February this year. For the period 2012-2017, the evaluation of the decision to generate renewable electricity in the village is overall positive, due to the approach on technologies adapted to local specificities. During this period, Monte Trigo Solar Power Plant and micro-grid was managed by APP, after the closing of the SESAM-ER project (Sustainable Energy Service for Isolated Areas through Micro Grids with Renewable Energy in Santo Antão Island).
Monte Trigo is one of the Cape Verdean localities with the highest level of isolation. The isolation has a direct impact on the socio-economic context, strongly vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity, mainly motivated by the lack of access to basic services (water, health, education, transport, infrastructure), employment and goods markets.
With a population of 274 inhabitants (2010 census), the site faces several challenges, conditioned by insufficient access to basic services and by the lack of public mechanisms of mobility and accessibility to other places. The main economic activity, taking into account the geo-climatic context, is fishing, whose economic development is dependent on the market of São Vicente.
After five years, the impacts and contagious effects of 24/24 hours of access to energy services are evident:
Improving the main economic activity, Fisheries, with regard to the access to ice at local level, and stock management and conservation of fish (avoiding wastage of fishery resources);
Improved safety conditions, with beach lighting to ease of access to fishermen in their fishing trips;
Continuous and uninterrupted access to communication networks such as TVthe internet and mobile telephone service (information and entertainment);
Major influx of tourists and visitors, and inclusion of the site on the Trekking tour;
Business environment improvement, the emergence of new economic activities namely housing due to the growth of rural tourism in the area, communications' enhancement and improvement and expansion of local commerce.
These results are a consequence of 176 MWh of solar electricity generated, 158 MWh of electricity consumed, 51 488 liters of diesel saved and 154 tons of CO2 gas avoided during these last five years of activity, which ALER was kind enough to disseminate as a paradigmatic case in the current energy transition scenario.
*Access here the Monte Trigo projects' analysis and results over the last five years.