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Mauritania, a vast country with a large deficit of energy production, has prepared a plan for the development of its energy mix by installing hybrid plants running on gas, photovoltaic and wind. The Minister of Oil and Mines Mohamed Salem Bechir offered an exclusive interview to EnergyNews last Wednesday.
Mauritania aims to have a liberalized energy market, at least as for production, for which the government is auctioning its facilities internationally. At the moment, despite its Electrical Code of 2001, it is still the incumbent SOMELEC who is responsible for transport and energy distribution. According to Salem due to the lack of an attractive offer. For now, SOMELEC takes small traders as contractors for areas with lower population density, while mining areas are self-sufficient.
Why is energy so expensive in Mauritania?
“The price of energy is still very high in Mauritania because we depend on thermal generation using diesel gensets and a low profitability distribution which has to reach remote rural areas with little population.”
This fact is reflected in the price of the social tariff (8 eurocents per kWh), which despite being subsidized by the government by 30%, is well above the standard of living of its inhabitants. In fact, only 34% of the population has access to electricity.
Salem Mohamed Bechir
How will you solve this deficit?
Mauritania is a very large (1 million km2) country with a small population (3.4 million inhabitants). 72% occupy rural areas and there are 7,300 rural localities with less than 500 inhabitants. Of that 72%, only 5% of the population is electrified.
To reduce costs, the government has made a plan that foresees feeding large urban areas with the renovation of several production centers that now generate electricity on diesel by transforming them into gas and hybridize them with wind and solar technology. These centers will be connected through several distribution lines and a large control center. There will be three high voltage power lines running from Nouakchott to Dakar, Mali and the northern mining region.
Mohamed Salem Bechir
And how will this cover the demand?
The construction of a 120MW combined cycle power plant near the capital Nouakchott is planned within four years with which we hope to cover 100% of the demand in the capital.
Demand in isolated areas will be met by some 1,000 production centers also hybrid but smaller with a range of about 100 km2, until these areas can be covered by the main distribution network in the future. Actually, the bidding process for 25 of such these plants is planned for the next month.
What is the contribution of renewables to the energy mix in Mauritania?
Mauritania has 102 MW from the hydroelectric plants Mannantali and Felou jointly built with Senegal and Mali, 18 MW in solar and 34 MW in wind. By 2020 the construction of an additional 140 MW hydropower plant is planned in which we will participate in a 33%, one 30MW photovoltaic plant, a wind farm of 100 MW, and several hybrid plants to cover remote areas with a total of 21 MW. With this renewable contribution we hope to reach 40% of the mix by 2018.
But how will you commission the combined cycle plants?
Mauritania has a lot of natural gas although the majority is still to be harnessed. Right now we have the Banda gas field representing a power production capacity of 700 MW for 25 years. In addition, the company Kosmos Energy has recently discovered a major offshore oilfield between Mauritania and Senegal and they are completing the surveys to determine the amount. The evaluation program ends in June 2016 and then the final figures will be made available.
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