The African Development Bank Board has approved US$49.92 million for the construction of a 30 megawatts solar photovoltaic power plant, expected to contribute to increasing generation capacity and grid energy to 185 MW and 365 gigawatt-hours per year, respectively. The grant comprised US$ 19.5 million from the African Development Fund (ADF-15) and US$ 30.42 million from the Transition Support Facility (TSF). Part of it will also be allocated to technical assistance and capacity building to improve the operational performance of the grid to ensure sustainability of the results to be achieved aimed at the overall development of the Eritrean power sector.
The first phase of the project according to an email to Energy Window International consists of the power generation phase, which includes the design, construction, supply and installation of a 30 MW grid-connected solar photovoltaic power plant with a 15 MW/30 MWh battery energy storage system, a 33/66 kV substation and a 66 kV transmission line connected to the existing transmission line between East Asmara and Dekemhare, located about 1 km from the project site.
The technical assistance and capacity building which aims to support technical studies for large-scale renewable energy projects to respond to electricity demand within Eritrea Electricity Corporation (EEC) network’s interconnected system, minimize the electricity generation from thermal plants as well as conduct critical studies of the energy sector, including emission reduction potential of the identified renewable energy projects and their eligibility for co-financing by international climate funds, were all built into the second phase of the project. The technical assistance includes capacity building for the electricity company and the Ministry of Environment, particularly in photovoltaic technologies and battery energy storage systems, dispatch management and commissioning of electrical equipment. Others include network planning and design, consistent performance rating, and financial, legal, operational and environmental aspects.
The project when completed, will serve as an instrument for reducing power sector deficit, minimize greenhouse gas emissions by 42,910 Gg CO2-eq per year, narrow the cost of electricity generation to 18.5 US cents per kilowatt hour, bring down dependence on fossil fuels thereby increase, in the short to medium term, the grid’s power generation capacity. It is also intended to increase the share of renewable energy in the grid’s energy mix from 3% to 23%, creating temporary jobs during project implementation and long-term jobs after project completion.
Part of the he project outcomes also include boosting socio-economic development, said to have suffered from massive and prolonged load shedding in the country. The expected long-term benefits are improved access to electricity, diversification of energy resources, reduced electricity costs, increased economic opportunities, and job creation. Additional renewable energy generated is also expected to help bridge the electricity generation gap in the grid, reduce power generation costs and increase the connection rate to the electricity grid.
The Government of Eritrea is the beneficiary of the grant, and the Ministry of Energy and Mines is responsible for its implementation. The available power capacity in Eritrea is reported at 35 MW for a peak demand of about 70 MW, a situation which has created frequent load-shedding periods affected businesses and the population. The project is also said to align with the objectives of the 2018 National Energy Policy, which underscores Eritrea’s Vision 2030 and aims to increase the electrification rate across the country and supply 20% of electric power demand through renewable energy sources by 2030, guide the transition from over-reliance on fossil fuels for power generation to renewable energy such as solar, wind and geothermal, and develop energy infrastructure to support agricultural production, food security and value chain development.
Apart from aligning with Eritrea’s development priorities and objectives in agriculture, nutrition and food security, infrastructure which includes energy and the green economy, the project also aligns with the Bank’s new Interim Country Strategy Paper (2022- 2024) for Eritrea, focusing on a single priority area: “the development of quality and sustainable infrastructure to support agricultural value chains and ensure economic diversification and structural transformation”.