Current Policy Projections
It is still unclear at this stage to what extent and how COVID-19 will affect The Gambia’s emissions in the long run; however, with currently implemented policies and the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, we expect The Gambia’s emissions to be at 3.3-4.3 MtCO2e in 2030 excluding LULUCF compared to 3.7-4.4 MtCO2e in 2030 in its pre-COVID-19 scenario.
In addition to financial support in the order of USD 40 million from the IMF, World Bank and European Union, the Gambian government plans to boost its recovery with support for the production and construction industries to create additional jobs in the agriculture and real estate sectors (World Bank 2020; Jolayemi 2020). However, little information is available on more concrete measures.
In 2017, The Gambia published the first volume of its Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience (SPCR), which includes activities around afforestation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency measures (Climate Investment Funds 2017). The SPCR summarises the strategy to building a climate-resilient pathway focusing on creating an overarching framework and concrete investment programmes. In general, the Gambian government has recognised that the transition to an affordable sustainable energy system is a critical milestone for the country’s socio-economic development as dependence on imported fuel oil has become a burden on the economy (IRENA 2013). Therefore, the government has put in place a number of policies and laws covering its energy sector.
In 2013, the Gambian Parliament passed the New Renewable Energy law (Government of The Gambia 2013) and tasked the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority with defining and implementing the rules for pricing the feed-in tariff (FiT) for renewable electricity. The law establishes a renewable energy fund to develop renewable energy infrastructure, capacity building, research and development, local equipment production and promotion.
In 2015, the government announced a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (Government of The Gambia 2015), including the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP). The NREAP sets targets for renewable energy capacity deployment until 2020 and 2030 as well as the instalment of solar thermal systems. By 2020, 44 MW of hydro capacity, 17 MW of solar PV and 7 MW of wind were targeted, with an additional 50 MW of solar PV and 20 MW of wind capacity by 2030. The NEEAP outlines measures to increase energy efficiency until 2030, including the gradual phase-out of incandescent bulbs and the installation of efficient charcoal production technologies.
Assessing the state of implementation of aforementioned laws and policies for The Gambia is difficult due to a lack of reporting and availability of data. However, the information available suggests The Gambia is on track to meet its renewable energy emissions reduction target in its NDC. This target includes emission reductions of 78.5 GgCO2e/year by 2025 through installing solar PV, wind as well as hydroelectric power plants (Government of The Gambia 2016).
By 2019, The Gambia had only installed 2 MWp of solar and 1 MW of wind capacity (IRENA 2020). However, in May 2018 the first large-scale solar PV project (20 MWp) received finance for its construction in the Greater Banjul area and completed the pre-selection process for developers in March 2020 (The World Bank 2018; Bellini 2020a). The project is part of a USD 164 million renewable energy programme launched by the Gambian government with financial support from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB) (Takouleu 2019; EIB 2019). The programme runs until 2024 and includes the 20 MWp solar plant, grid reinforcement investments, institutional and technical support for the electricity sector and off-grid PV systems installed at up to 1,100 public schools and health facilities (EIB 2018). The EIB estimates that the programme will lead to emissions reductions of up to 32 ktCO2e/year once fully implemented (EIB 2018).
In September 2020, the Gambian government and the Economic Community of West African States issued two tenders for the development of a 150 MW solar power plant that could be linked to a battery storage system with a capacity of 100 to 150 MWh (Bellini 2020b). An 80 MW unit is scheduled to go online in 2021 and additional 70 MW are planned for 2025 (West African Power Pool 2020).
Improved operational performance of the National Water and Electric Company (NAWEC) have led to a reduction in transmission and distribution losses from 28% in 2015 to 19% in 2019 (World Bank 2020).
In 2017, the African Development Bank has approved a grant for the development of mini grids in The Gambia through its Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa. This project supports installation of small and medium scale projects and the creation of governance structures to support renewable energy development (ESI Africa 2017).
Given these developments in the renewables sector, we have assumed that The Gambia is on track to meet the renewable energy target of its NDC. We have not tried to quantify other aspects of the renewable energy and energy efficiency plans due to a lack of data.
The Gambia has set targets to start oil extraction in the country by 2019 and to stop importing oil by 2025 (Gambian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy 2020a). In 2018, Australian oil company FAR started drilling The Gambia’s first offshore well in 40 years but in 2020 suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the time being (Offshore Energy Today 2019; Gambian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy 2020b). In December 2019, the Gambian government signed another deal with BP to explore oil and gas off its coast (Reuters 2019). At a time when countries should move away from fossil fuels, the country should rather focus on further increasing its renewable energy generation to stay on a Paris-compatible pathway and avoid technology lock-in.
In 2018, The Gambia initiated a project that aims to restore 10,000 hectares of forests, mangroves, and savannas bringing it closer to reaching its NDC afforestation targets (Green Climate Fund 2018). The Gambia’s NDC unconditional afforestation targets aims to reduce emissions by 0.3 MtCO2eq in 2030.