Senegal becomes West Africa's renewable energies leader: Stimulated by Senegal's national programmes, private initiatives are providing alternatives to ever scarcer and more expensive traditional energy sources.

Author:Chongwang, Julien
Position:CLIMATE CHANGE - Conference news

Senegal aspires to become the West African leader in green energies, aiming to reach a 30% share of renewable sources in its energy mix by 2030. Private initiatives are contributing to the country's ambitious goal by focusing primarily on two sources of clean energy: biogas and solar energy.

Adams Tidjani, a Senegalese nuclear physics professor at Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) in Dakar, is leading an initiative that enables locals to gradually replace fuel wood with biogas. It focuses on building biodigesters in Ngueye-Ngueye village, 130km from Senegal's capital city.

A biodigester consists of an underground chamber that communicates with latrines through pipes, Tidjani says. Villagers can also pour cow dung into an external tank connected to the system. Water is then added and mixed with the faeces, so they liquefy and flow into the underground chamber.

"It causes a chemical reaction called anaerobic digestion that throws off methane. The gas funnels through pipes and into houses to light stoves and lamps," explains Tidjani.

One simply needs to open the shutoff valve and light a match to turn on a stove or a gas lamp. "I used to spend several hours a day out in the bush, looking for firewood for my kitchen. Once back home, I was often exhausted," says Diouf Ndiabou, one of the programme's beneficiaries. "Since we've gotten the biodigester, I save a lot of time. I don't need to collect firewood anymore and I cook much faster," she adds.

Tidjani's programme is in line with a broader public initiative--Senegal's National Domestic Biogas Programme (PNB-SN), launched in 2009 and partially funded by the Netherlands. The programme goal is to "incentivise Senegalese rural households to use domestic biogas as a fuel alternative for firewood and charcoal, which are both responsible for the country's deforestation," explains PNB-SN coordinator Matar Sylla.

According to the Senegalese Ministry of Energy, "a 10-cubic-metre biodigester produces at least 2.5 cubic metres of biogas per day, meeting the cooking energy needs of a 10-person household, and equal to 12.5 kg of firewood or 7.5 kg of charcoal per day." From 2010 to 2013, more than 650 biodigesters were built in 12 communities across Senegal.

Another state-funded programme, the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES), launched by the government in 2014, places solar energy at the core of its strategy. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Senegal has a...

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