Côte d’Ivoire is the largest economy in Francophone West Africa and has rapidly recovered after a decade of conflict and stagnation that ended with a civil war in 2011. Annual GDP growth rates have exceeded 8% since the war ended. The government has ambitious plans to double current electricity generation capacity to 4GW by 2020 in order to sustain this economic growth but renewables do not feature highly in existing capacity development plans. Also, the first half of 2017 has seen military revolts over delayed bonus payments and a drop in the price of cocoa, leading the government to slash its 2017 budget by 10% – signs that the Ivorian resurgence may be more fragile than perceived.
Nevertheless, Cote d’Ivoire is beginning to recognize the potential of renewable energy, especially after Thierry Tanoh was elected as minister of petrol, energy and renewable energy development in January. Tanoh has publicly stated that clean energy is an “important” sector, which can contribute to economic development and electricity access. No utility-scale renewable energy projects, aside from large hydro, have yet been installed.
The West African nation committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 28% compared to business as usual by 2030, using a 2012 baseline, under the Paris Agreement of 2015. Côte d’Ivoire is the first Sub-Sahara African country where an independent power producer (IPP) was contracted by the state utility, following the generation market liberalization of 1994. Liberalization of the distribution and retail sectors is expected in 2020, after the current concession agreement with the incumbent utility, Compagnie Ivoirienne d’Electricité, reaches its term. Thenceforth, private operators may be granted the right to operate mini-grids in rural areas, although long-term the government plan is to extend the national grid to as many places as possible.
Power generation is dominated by state-owned hydro-electric plants at about 32%, and privately-owned gas-fired generators at 68%. The country’s first LNG terminal, with a 3-million ton capacity, will be installed in the Abidjan port area, which will provide impetus to build further combined cycle gas plants. In April it was announced that construction would start in mid-2017 and that gas supplies would commence from mid-2018. The terminal will also serve as a regional import hub and as an alternative fuel source were Ivorian gas fields to dry up. There are also plans to build a 700MW coal plant, with raw material imported from South Africa.
Cote d’Ivoire’s first utility-scale solar plant is expected to be connected to the grid in 2018, after it was announced on May 24 that Korhogo Solaire, a subsidiary of Morocco’s Nova Power, will build a 25MW facility in the Northern Province of Korhogo. The plant will cost 23.6 billion CFA francs ($40 million) to construct, and is intended to start the country on the path toward a more balanced energy mix.
The country has also launched a couple of expressions of interest for clean energy capacity, although it has yet to introduce targeted procurement policies.
A call for expression of interest was launched in mid-2016 for two cotton and cocoa biomass projects of 25MW and 20MW respectively, and a 25MW solar PV project, where the maximum tariff availability ranged from CFA 60/kWh to CFA 70/kWh. Since then, five companies have been pre-selected for each project to enter a competitive tender, although further details about the auction process or results have not been released. French companies Eranove, Bouyges and Engie are among those selected to go through to the competitive tender round.
The additional facilities would help Cote d’Ivoire meet its goal to generate 11% of its final energy consumption from renewables by 2020, and 16% by 2030. Both targets exclude large hydro. The government has mandated Moroccan energy developer Platinum Power SA to lead the development, finance and construction of two new hydropower facilities with a combined capacity of 300MW on the Bafing and Sassandra rivers. A call for expression of interest to develop and construct both projects was launched in February 2016.
Also in hydro, the 275MW Soubre hydro-electric dam on the Sassandra River entered service on June 30. Financed by the Exim-Import Bank of China, the project is part of the $2.5 billion planned Chinese investment in Cote d’Ivoire – funds that will also go toward extending the electricity grid.
Renewables play a small part in the government’s ambitious electrification program, although there are signs this could change. The state intends to install around 50 solar-powered mini grids of around 3kW with EU funding, and government officials are starting to realize that decentralized mini grids and solar home systems may be needed in the interim, before the grid is extended to all rural areas.
The “electricity for all” strategy which aims to connect a million homes by 2020 has two main components. Firstly to rehabilitate and extend the transmission grid. Secondly, to subsidize customer connections to the distribution grid by bringing down the upfront cost of connection with a prepay meter from $250 to just $2. The measure has been a success with 4500 localities, out of a total 8500, connected to the grid so far, and a further 800 - 1000 to be electrified by the end of 2017, leaving a remaining 3500 or so that will either be connected on or off-grid 2025 at the latest. However, the potential of renewables to accelerate electrification of the most remote areas is not yet fully exploited. Less than 5% of the estimate $796 million electrification costs to 2020 are to be spent on renewables in mini-grid projects.
Other than a reduced rate of VAT for solar panels, there are no official incentives for renewable energy. Lack of regulation creates opportunities for private companies such as PEGAfrica and ZECI (a joint venture between EDF and Off-Grid Electric) to enter the market and sell solar home systems via mobile money payments. PEGAfrica only started operating in Cote d’Ivoire at the start of 2017 and is already experiencing significant demand for the SunKing products it sells. The country also produces significant biomass feedstock on cocoa, coffee, sugar, and palm oil plantations. Some factories have been using biomass to generate electricity for their own consumption for years. However, the development of the 46MW Biokala biomass plant by Ivorian agro-industrial group SIFCA has been delayed due to indecision about the price at which it will sell power to the grid.