Introduction and Massaer Cisse, Lekela Power, interview

Senegal has prioritised the development of renewable energy as it aims for universal access to electricity by 2025. Led by President Macky Sall, increased renewable energy generation is now core to the country’s power generation strategy.
Senegal has huge potential for solar and wind energy, with photovoltaic (PV) technology now being introduced, while various wind power projects are already helping with rural electrification.
Senegal has traditionally relied on imported liquid fuels for its oil and diesel-fired plants, but recent oil and gas discoveries could see the country become an oil exporter in the near future.
The country will feature at Africa Oil & Power 2019 (AOP 2019) taking place in Cape Town 9-11 October, where it will launch its oil and gas licensing rounds.
Massaer Cisse, Senegal general manager of renewable power generation company, Lekela Power, believes the country is on track to achieve 25% of renewable energy in the mix by 2030. He shares his views on Africa’s future energy needs.

Africa needs to build energy infrastructure to meet its power needs now and in the future. The conversation is dominated by traditional energy – coal and gas – but there is a place for alternative energy in the mix. Is it important that alternative energy producers are part of the conversation at events like AOP 2019?

It’s incredibly important that conversations around meeting Africa’s energy needs look at both renewable energy sources, as well as traditional energy sources, and it’s great to see that AOP have embraced this. However, increased knowledge and understanding of renewables across the energy sector will help to realise its potential. We focus on renewables because we believe it can help to deliver competitively priced, clean energy to the grid quickly, while reducing the reliance on imported and more expensive fossil fuel approaches.

Looking across Africa, where is alternative energy the best option. And why?
The quality of renewables sources across Africa means that there are countless opportunities to develop alternative energy projects across the continent. Our portfolio includes over 1,300MW of projects in South Africa, Egypt, Ghana and Senegal, and part of the reason we’ve pursued opportunities in these countries is the abundance of world class wind resources. As a business, we are always looking to seek out further renewable energy opportunities.

Alternative energy offers faster, cheaper and more adaptable solutions for Africa’s energy challenges. How do you make it easier to adopt in Africa? What are the obstacles it faces?

Working in any market has its challenges, however, in order to function successfully, we think it is important to be a long-term operator and we reflect that in our outlook. For our wind farm in Senegal, Parc Eolien Taiba N’Diaye (PETN), whilst construction will be completed in less than two years, an agreement has been signed that will ensure the turbines generate electricity for Senegal over the next 20 years. Further, with every project we build, we go beyond energy, investing in the local community to build a lasting positive impact – this is a crucial aspect to our strategy. We’re proud to say that PETN will create up to 400 direct employment opportunities during peak construction. This is alongside a programme of activities to improve education, enterprise and the environment in the local community, including construction of marketplaces and an IT centre for the local schoolchildren.

Lekela has multiple projects across Africa. Given the challenges of working and financing projects in Africa, why would you keep moving forward on the continent?

We are building an organisation that offers best-in-class delivery of clean power in African countries. We’re set up to navigate any of the challenges in financing, developing and operating these projects, as this is exactly what Lekela was created to do. We have built a team with the right skillset and experience in this sector, combined with both international and in-country knowledge of carrying out renewable projects across Africa. What’s more, there’s great enthusiasm from Governments – for example, Senegal has targets to achieve 25% renewable energy in the energy generation mix by 2025, and look set to achieve this ahead of schedule.

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