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MAURITANIA Diversifying Mauritania’s electricity sector Mauritania has an installed capacity of almost 356 MW and rural electrification of less than 5%. A frica hosts some large and sparsely populated countries whose installed electricity generation capacity is under 500 MW, the power used by medium sized cities in other parts of the world. One such country is the Saharan territory of Mauritania, with a million square kilometres and 3.3 million people. Like much of Africa, though, it is experiencing economic growth, estimated by its government at 10% a year. The country is forecasting a six-fold increase in electricity demand by 2025. Electricity demand in Mauritania according to a median forecast scenario is expected to increase to over 1,350 MW by 2025, a large part to be driven by the country’s mining industry, which is a big iron ore producer. Of the country’s total installed existing generation capacity, 80% (285.5 MW) is based on heavy and light fuel oil facilities, the majority being heavy fuel oil burning plants. Grid interconnection is limited. Electricity production costs are high due to high hydrocarbon costs and expensive maintenance of isolated plants. The country’s government provides an annual US$330 million to the national electricity company, Société Mauritanienne d’Electricité (Somelec), to subsidise electricity prices. To improve the cost base of Mauritania’s electricity sector and increase its capacity to meet growing demand the country is looking to add production from local resources, mainly gas and hydro. Taleb Abdivall, Mauritania’s minister of petroleum, energy and mines, says the country could have hydroelectric dams in common with neighbouring states, and is looking to develop this potential. In addition, Mauritania has oil and gas potential, with this sector already contributing more than 30% of the national gross domestic product (GDP). This includes an 8,000 barrel a day oil field discovered by Tullow Oil, with it and other companies undertaking on-going exploration in Mauritania. Discoveries of offshore natural gas that have been made are of particular interest to the electricity sector. The offshore Banda field has a natural gas reserve estimated at 1.2 trillion cubic feet (tcf) and is earmarked to supply a potential The 15 MW solar facility commissioned at Nouakchott in 2013. 36 350 MW gas fired power plant. The gas volume required to supply a 350 MW gas fired power station would be 61 million standard cubic feet a day, and thus the field is expected to be able to supply such a plant for at least 20 years. A company has been formed to implement this project, SPEG, which has Somelec, national mining company Mines de Fer de Mauritanie (SNIM) and Kinross gold company as shareholders. The first phase could see the establishment of a 180 MW gas fired power station undertaken as early as 2014, with this to be expanded with 240 MW of combined cycle plant at a later stage. Mauritania’s electricity sector initiative also includes establishing 1,000 km of 225 kV transmission lines to trace the country’s coastline and then head inland. Mauritania plans to develop its grid and interconnection with neighbouring countries and the envisioned link will also serve to connect the country with Senegal and Mali. The country plans to increase the role of renewable energy in its mix. Wind power is part of this, with Mauritania’s wind regime mainly determined by the north-easterly Alizés winds that sweep across central Africa and the Caribbean. The strongest winds are in the northern coastal regions of Mauritania and taper towards the south and inland. Wind measurements have recorded speeds of more than 8.0 m/s south of the country’s largest city and capital, Nouakchott, which lies at about the middle of its coastline. At the northern tip of the country’s coastline is Nouadhibou where the wind speeds are 9.0 m/s and a 4.4 MW wind farm exists. A 31.5 MW wind facility is under construction at Nouadhibou. As expected, Mauritania has good solar potential with its solar radiation ranging from 1,800 to 2,400 kWh/m²/year. The country already has 18 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities in place, with a 3.0 MW plant in Nouadhibou commissioned in July 2013, and a 15 MW facility commissioned earlier in 2013 at Nouakchott, which has a population of some 700,000 people. The Nouakchott PV plant cost US$32 million to build and was undertaken by Abu Dhabi based renewable energy company Masdar. Mauritania is an ideal location for the application of hybrid diesel and solar energy plants in distributed small grids, and the country is undertaking hybridisation of its isolated thermal power plants. It is undertaking a US$30 million project to add a 1.4 MW solar power plant at the central-southerly town of Kiffa which together with a 4.0 MW diesel plant and 65 km of 33 kV links will increase electricity access in that region. Agence Française de Développement (AFD) provided the funding for this project. It is also looking at 2.0 MW and 1.0 MW solar facilities together with 4.0 MW and 2.0 MW diesel facilities at Nema and Adel Bagrou in the south-western part of the country as well as more than 500 km of transmission lines. Funding of US$63 million to achieve this has been sought. ESI AFRICA ISSUE 4 2013