Niger suffers from a weak GDP (USD 7.143 billion in 2015; around 0.01 percent of the world economy), and according to the World Bank only 14.4% of the population has access to electricity. In order to face the challenge of its growing population, Niger is encouraging the development of renewable energy technologies.
The existing power infrastructure is underdeveloped, and the country continues to rely heavily on imported electricity from neighboring Nigeria. Energy production in Niger is dominated by biomass which represents almost 80% of the total energy consumed, compared to less than 1% for other sources of renewable energy, including solar and wind. Households are the main consumer of energy, representing approximately 90% of total energy consumption of the country, with transport representing around 8%, and industry, agriculture and trade representing around 2% together.
The development of the renewables sector has been slow, despite the government’s approval of a 2004 National Strategy on Renewable Energy which aimed to increase the share of renewable energies (biomass excluded) in the national energy balance from less than 0.1% in 2003 to 10% in 2020..
However, results may finally come as International Financial Institutions have recently taken steps to encourage the development of energy in Niger, including:
- in December 2015 , the World Bank approved an International Development Association credit of USD 54.5 million and a grant of USD 10.5 million to increase access to electricity in Niger; and
- in July 2016, the African Development Bank’s Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa awarded a USD 994.270 grant for the promotion of green mini-grids in Niger.
In this context, Niger also recently took important steps to rationalise its legal framework:
- the Energy Sector Regulatory Authority was created in December 2015;
- a new Electricity Code was enacted in May 2016; and
- in September 2016, three important decrees were adopted under the Electricity Code:
- the first fixing the conditions of third parties’ access to the grid;
- the second specifying the tariffs applicable to the electricity sector; and
- the third laying down the terms and conditions of delegation agreements (conventions de delegation) and the award of importation, exportation and transport licenses.
Niger has excellent opportunities to make use of renewable energy (especially solar power). In the short term, given the lack of infrastructure (including a national power grid), the development of mini-grid projects could be a relevant option.
Based on other experiences in Sub-Saharan Africa, the development, construction and financing of significant renewable power projects will be challenging but possible provided that they benefit from political support, and are developed by experienced sponsors aware of the complexities of doing business in Sub-Saharan Africa.