30 of June 2020

The sustainability of renewable energy projects as a national and regional ambition - the case of mini-grids in Guinea-Bissau

Dear readers,

In its ten years of operation, ECREEE has developed several activities aimed at promoting renewable energy in all ECOWAS countries. Support for the development of policies and plans, training actions for staff and policy makers, selection of projects to be supported, either by providing free technical assistance or by granting non-repayable financing, all of these measures are aimed at increasing the rate of electrification of our communities and the greatest energy security of the countries, using renewable energies to facilitate this development that has to be sustainable.

Sustainability is the theme of this editorial that ECREEE has the opportunity to share with you. It is never too much to repeat that all the relevant actors, from the promoter of a small private project, the regulators, national political authorities, international technical and financial partners, non-profit civil society organizations, play an essential role in the project life cycle with a view to its durability, replicability and technical and financial strength.

At the level of off-grid electrification, whether through mini-grids or autonomous isolated systems, ECREEE has been promoting technical assistance activities in order to solve identified problems that jeopardized the sustainability of projects. In cooperation with GIZ, countries such as Benin and Niger benefit from projects that seek to increase the value of assets installed in the past and that were at risk of not reaching their full potential as vectors of change.

Within the scope of the GEF Guinea-Bissau project, promoted by UNIDO and implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy of Guinea-Bissau, the organization of the Guinea Bissau Sustainable Energy International Conference, ALERs initiative, allowed to verify on the spot the commitment to seek sustainable solutions for the country. There was the opportunity to support rural electrification projects such as Bambadinca and Bissorã, projects of reference in our region, but which need solutions and plans that allow them to fulfil their aim of providing electricity at affordable prices and safely to thousands of families in Guinea Bissau for many years. Have trained and capable operators, a management plan that allows to face the costs of the project, either through tariffs that reflect these costs, or through solutions that provide for cross-subsidies with the national electric tariff. Maximize the production of renewable energy instead of subsidizing diesel generators. Strengthen institutions and create a shared vision. It was for this reason that ECREEE launched a call for proposals for consultancy services: “Technical assistance to guarantee the long-term sustainability of clean energy mini-grid projects in Bambadinca and Bissorã in Guinea-Bissau”, which will be open until 17 July and for which we invite all interested parties to participate.

ECREEE's commitment to sustainability is not negotiable. Ensuring that mini-grid projects are implemented with a view to their management, operation and maintenance in an efficient and effective manner is an imperative to which we are all linked and it is also the only way to convince the market of the rationality of betting on energy renewable sources to the detriment of the extension of the conventional network powered by fossil energy. We want all actors in the sector to place project sustainability as the number one priority as a criterion for support, incentives or financing. We must be innovative and ensure accountability in the post-financing phase, strengthening institutions, operators and regulators, promoting mechanisms for monitoring and verification and, above all, anchoring the realization of any and all projects in the feeling of ownership to the beneficiaries. These are the beneficiaries, who must be able to claim the proper functioning of the projects, regardless of the sources of financing and the entities involved. ECOWAS 'vision as a community of people, not countries, implies this commitment to all citizens, who deserve sustainable projects and can underpin the economic development of their communities.

Eder Semedo 

Project Officer - ECREEE