Barrow Laying a brick after delivering his speech: Photo Credit: State House of The Gambia

By Momodou Jarju 

Barrow Laying a brick after delivering his speech: Photo Credit: State House of The Gambia

The Gambia River Basin Development Organisation’s (OMVG) Energy Project’s Interconnection Component which will house a Substation in Jarra Soma, Lower River Region, is set to address electricity problems in the country.

Speaking at the official ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone to mark the commencement of construction works of the aforementioned substation on Saturday February 23rd 2019, President Barrow said the project marks a turning point when it comes to addressing the country’s energy crisis.

The OMVG is a sub-regional organisation that was co-founded by former Senegalese Poet-President Leopold Senghor, and Gambia’s first President Dawda K Jawara, on June 30th 1978. The organisation consist of the Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.

The OMVG Energy project aims to reinforce regional integration and cooperation by wisely using and exploiting the shared hydroelectric resources in The Gambia, Kayanga-Geba and Koliba-Corubal river basins.

60% INCREASE IN ELECTRICITY ACCESS:

President Barrow said the Soma substation is expected to increase the current 40% electricity access to 60%, when completed; that increase in the generation capacity will be from 102 to 250 Mega Watts.

The president said his government is encouraging a major shift towards using renewable energy from 2% percent to 40%; that they have taken urgent measures to increase electricity generation through various outlets, to speedily close the huge gap between energy demand and supply.

“As a short term measure for example, our national energy capacity has been expanded through maintenance and rehabilitation of existing engines, which has been augmented by procurement of new machines. The current Energy Purchase Agreement for Rural Gambia, complements these efforts,” Barrow added.

He said electricity is a major catalyst or impetus for national development which the OMVG has recognized to enhance, and support the development of an appropriate energy sector in member countries.

“Thus in February 2017, the out-going chairperson Professor Alpha Conde on behalf of the Heads of States of the OMVG, launched a major Interconnection Project covering a transmission line of 1,677 km and 15 substations, at Kaleta in Guinea,” he said.

Of these substations, 2 would be in The Gambia, 5 in Guinea Conakry, 4 in Guinea-Bissau and 4 in Senegal. Out of the 1,677 km of transmission line, 183 km is accorded to Gambia, 575 in Guinea, 218 km in Guinea-Bissau and 701 km in Senegal.

‘‘The Soma substation is designed to link the Eastern and Northern part of the Gambia through the NAWEC interconnection networks and stands to revitalize relations and strengthen regional solidarity,’’ according Barrow. Like the founding fathers of the OMVG, Barrow said they have recognized that in order to go fast they must go alone; but that to go far, they have to go together. He thanked all and sundry, especially partners, on the effective roles they have played for the implementation of the project, particularly the OMVG High Commission for repositioning the organization within a short period of time.

The High Commissioner of OMVG Lansana Fofana, said the interconnection project including a 1,677 km long line with a transmission capacity of 800 MW, is one of the six priority sub-regional integration projects of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the West African Power Pool (WAPP); that the construction of other substations and line segments of the Interconnection Project will start shortly in Guinea-Bissau, adding that the total cost of the Interconnection project is approximately US$722 million, financed by eight technical and financial partners.

The lead partners are: African Development Bank (AfDB), European Investment Bank (EIU), Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), World Bank (WB), West Africa Development Bank (BOAD), Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), and the German Development Bank (KfW).

Fofana explained that six contracting firms and consortiums will carry out the project and that seventeen contracts have been signed and entered into for a provisional period of 18 months.

“Major progress has been made in the mobilization of the contractors, the conduct of execution studies, the manufacturing of equipment and materials and their delivery onsite. The development of the Environmental and Social Management Plans of sites, the Resettlement Action Plans, and the gradual release of the project rights-of-way and sites for the effective start of construction works, have made similar progress,” he explained.

Fofana who is also the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the OMVG, said significant progress is made in mobilizing funding for the Sambangalou hydropower plant; that on 8 April 2018, they signed a phased contract with a renowned French-German-Austrian Group, Vinci Construction/ANDRITZ, for the construction of this facility over a period of 42 months, instead of 50, for a maximum amount of 381 million euros.

“In terms of financing, thanks to your involvement, Senegal has accepted to act as sole borrower. The terms of conditions of this financing are currently being discussed with other Member States and will be decided soon. At the institutional level, the Energy Project’s Assets Management Company has been created and we kindly request that the Conference of Heads of State and Government at its next session, designate the countries which will hold the key positions in the management structure of this Company,” he said.

The Chairperson of the OMVG Council of Ministers Dr. Antonio Serifo Embalo, noted that the OMVG interconnection network falls in line with the energy development policies of the ECOWAS and the African Union, with a view to create a common energy market.

Embalo urged the contractors to demonstrate professionalism and speed in the execution of the works, while assuring them of the support of OMVG member states, the Gambia Government and the people of Soma.

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