Alexandre Dias Monteiro, Minister for Industry, Trade and Energy in Cabo Verde, outlines his country’s ambitious strategy to jettison fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy to Paul Melly.
With a population of just 600,000 spread across its nine islands, Cabo Verde faces unique challenges. But the Atlantic location gives it the chance to build an energy future based on renewable power.
Monteiro has ambitions for the island. “Our 2018-2040 energy plan is designed to put the sector on a secure and sustainable basis, and free us from relying on fossil fuels. Our ﬁrst target is to produce 30% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and then 50% by 2030,” he says.
“At present, 18% of our power comes from wind generation, while only 2% is generated from solar installations. But we plan to develop 250MW of additional capacity by 2030, of which solar will contribute 160MW and wind 90MW.” But because wind energy is reliant on the weather, while solar power can only be generated during the hours of daylight, this was an obstacle to developing a power strategy based solely on renewables.
But Monteiro explains that Cabo Verde now plans to take advantage of the new technologies that are being developed.
“A pump-storage project – where water held in a reservoir at altitude is used to generate hydro-power during the hours of darkness – will be built on the largest island, Santiago,” he says. “Such projects are not viable on the eight smaller islands, where we will install battery storage plants. Altogether, we plan to develop 640MWh in storage capacity.”
Storage technology – an area where important advances are being made – will be the crucial third leg of Cabo Verde’s plan to achieve 100% reliance on renewable power by 2040. In the long term, some power may also be generated through wave technology, Monteiro explains. “We already have a small test project, linked to a water desalination plant, but we think that there is scope for this technology to become a competitive option.”
Indeed, economic competitiveness is an important dimension of the entire renewable energy programme. “Our aim is to achieve the maximum possible reliance on renewable power sources, but at the lowest possible cost.”
Monteiro believes this is achievable. The government is trying to mobilise private investment for independent power providers’ wind and solar projects through a tender process; it recently embarked on the ﬁrst stage of a tender process for potential project developers. The government also decided to privatise the national power utility. It has set up a working group and is preparing to select ‘transition advisors’ to help it in this process, which will result in a new structure for the electrical power sector.
“We speciﬁed that all proposals must commit to produce power at the same cost as our current installations, or at a lower price. No bids proposing an increased tariﬀ will be considered,” he explains. “Even so, we have had many expressions of interest from private-sector investors.”
Cabo Verde’s distinctive location oﬀers clear potential for renewable power. But Monteiro believes that the country’s record of political and economic stability will also prove attractive to potential investors. This matters, because wind power investors will be legally required to commit to a 20-year project life, while solar project developers must commit to a 25-year investment.
But what will happen to existing thermal power plants?
“We need them as a backup and for grid stabilisation,” says Monteiro. “The thermal power capacity and the introduction of the storage capacity will make up for the intermittent nature of the renewable production. Even so, the direction of travel is clear. “Last year our thermal power output fell by 3%, while our renewable energy output rose by 20%.”
This article is an extract from the Africa Energy Yearbook 2019, a partnership between African Business and EnergyNet.