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Desert to Power – A Spotlight on Yeleen Rural Electrification Project in Burkina Faso

30-Jan-2019
Illustration: ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

Context

The Desert to Power (DtP) Programme initiated in 2017 by the African Development Bank has a big and bold ambition: to light up and power the Sahel by building electricity generation capacity of 10 GW through photovoltaic (PV) solar systems via public, private, grid and off-grid projects by 2025, and consequently transform the industry, agriculture and economic fabric of the entire region....
The Yeleen Rural Electrification Project, involving the production of off-grid energy in Burkina Faso, is the first project under the DtP initiative.
Burkina Faso is a low-income Sahelian country, negatively impacted by extreme climate variations such as declining rainfall, rising temperatures, floods and droughts. With installed capacity of 285 MW, about 3 million households in Burkina Faso are completely without power.
Of Burkina Faso’s 19 million population, 90% live in rural areas, where electricity access – mostly through diesel generators – stands at just 3%. Agriculture, the mainstay of Burkina Faso’s rural economy, is also the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Innovative financing

The project is financed through the Bank’s African Development Fund, in addition to co-financing mobilised by the Bank from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and the European Union. The project will also leverage private sector investments through equity and debt raised from commercial banks.

The project financing is made through performance based-grants (mini-grid operators will receive a proportion of the grants when effective connections are realised and verified), sovereign loans, commercial loans, and private sector equity. The grants will enable the mini-grids to operate with competitive and affordable tariffs, which will assure the sustainability of the model during the concession’s duration without additional subsidies. Additionally, the issuance of a GCF-Funded guarantee by the African Guarantee Fund (AGF) will encourage local micro-finance institutions and commercial banks to extend loans for productive equipment to local entrepreneurs.

Objectives

Yeleen project objectives

The Yeleen Rural Electrification project is an investment operation for off-grid rural electrification using decentralised photovoltaic solar systems. The project aims to increase electricity access in Burkina Faso by connecting 150,000 households to solar mini- grids (50,000 household) and through stand-alone solar kits systems (100,000 households). The total installed capacity of the 100 mini-power plants supplying energy to the mini-grids is estimated at 22.6 MW.

The use of solar PV technology and battery storage – optimised through smart mini-grid functions to match available solar energy to demand and to limit night demand – will enable a 100% renewable energy access to rural populations, with a service period of approximately 16 hours/day. This will lead to sustainable energy pricing independent of oil prices and a reduction of CO2 emissions.

It will also contribute to the development of agricultural sector and employability in rural areas.

Key outcomes

The project will harness solar energy to deliver access to more than 900,000 people in rural areas – nearly 5% of the country’s population, and is expected to result in an average annual CO2 emissions reduction of 15,500 tons. Other positive outcomes of the project include:

  1. A functional legal and regulatory system as well as knowledgeable and empowered institutions that can scale up and replicate the rural electrification model to the other provinces of the country;
  2. Activities to support women’s inclusion in the project including training for women-led businesses;
  3. Support to local entrepreneurship through more productive uses of energy;
  4. Creation of between 200 and 700 permanent jobs in the mini-grid sector, and additional jobs during the construction period.

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