Togo launches $1.8bn plan to provide universal access to electricity

Togo, west Africa, plans to use solar power to increase the availability of electricity from 47% to 100% by 2030, at an expected cost of around $1.8bn, approximately 37% of its annual GDP.

The strategy developed by the Ministry of Mines and Energy was officially launched last week (27 June) at a meeting between Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe and the vice-president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Amadou Hott.

The AfDB has pledged $35m for the scheme.

Banks and energy firms such as EDF and Energie also gathered in the capital Lomé to brainstorm financial and technical challenges.

The plan is to combine off and on-grid generation to reach the 3 million Togolese with no access to electricity apart from expensive and diesel generators.

The off-grid component would be provided by 60 mini-solar plants, procured through private-public partnerships.

The latest survey found that 53% of the population – mostly in rural areas – have no access to electricity (Erik Kristensen/Flickr)

In addition, there are ambitious plans under way to sell solar kits to rural households by Chicago-based solar power company Greenlight Planet and UK firm BBOXX. Greenlight has just been granted a licence to sell up to 300,000 of its single household systems.

The challenge these companies face is making solar affordable in a country with a nominal per capita GDP of just $600. Greenlight offers a plan in which users make weekly payments to local agents over eight months, after which they own the product.

Patrick Muriuki, head of development for Africa at Greenlight Planet, said: "Togo is a relatively small market, but it moves at a fast pace with its electrification strategy, unlike other nations which are slow to invest in renewable energy infrastructures."

At the same time, the government plans to link around 800,000 households to the grid infrastructure. This will be done by building new transmission lines and extending distribution networks.

The programme will unroll in three phases over the next 12 years. For the first phase the government is hoping to raise $320m, half of it from the private sector.

Top image: Togo has an average of seven hours of sunlight a day (PhReym/Creative Commons)

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