Safeguarding forests and diversifying the energy mix

Safeguarding forests and diversifying the energy mix

Simona Manna
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The Minister of Petroleum and Energy of Senegal, Mouhamadou Makhtar Cissé, speaks: "countering the use of coal and wood as energy sources is central to our efforts. We are therefore working at a macro level to improve network coverage and have developed programs to support clean energy for cooking and lighting with biogas"

Senegal is a country in a hurry, eager to conquer the challenges it faces in diversifying its energy sources and making energy accessible to its entire population. It is among the few African countries to have discovered gas deposits. Mozambique, Tanzania, Egypt, Mauritania and South Africa and Senegal account for 40 percent of global deposits discovered between 2011 and 2018. Despite having huge reserves of oil and gas, Dakar also aims to make renewables a significant part of its energy mix, with the goal of reaching 30 percent by 2030. Thanks to successful policy initiatives, Senegal has also managed to guarantee access to energy to 70 percent of its population, with the aim of achieving 100 percent coverage by 2025. Forests, one of the country’s fundamental resources, are also among its priorities. The country’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Mouhamadou Makhtar Cissé, is firm in giving this assurance: “We are deeply committed to protecting our forest resources and all our natural resources in general.”

Mouhamadou Makhtar Cissé

Mouhamadou Makhtar Cissé

Minister of Petroleum and Energy of Senegal since 2019. Previously Budget Minister. Former CEO of Senelec, the national electricity company of Senegal.

Senegal plans to make all its offshore projects operational between 2022 and 2026. What can we expect in the coming years?

First of all, we will continue to carry out exploration activities. Only a week ago [November 5, 2019, ed.] in Cape Town, we launched an international competitive tender procedure to assign licenses for twelve new blocks. What happens over the coming years will depend largely on the new discoveries we hope to make as a result of this assignment process. What is certain is that gas production is scheduled to start in 2022, while for other fields we will have to wait for 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026 as you rightly pointed out. It is a long-term process over a period of 25 to 30 years, so we have to act intelligently. We will be able to make forecasts about resources and improve the results of ongoing projects as well.

 

According to the IMF, Senegal is estimated to have reserves of over 1 billion barrels of oil and 40,000 billion cubic feet of gas. These are very significant reserves...

Yes, we have huge reserves, but this should not divert our attention from the issue of resource depletion. We cannot continue to live in a world of exponential development. Climate change means that renewable energy is the right way forward. Even though Africa has to think primarily about its economic development, this issue affects everyone and Senegal wants to be a leader in the field of renewables and increase their share of the energy mix. Therefore, despite the country’s huge gas and oil reserves and the new discoveries, we are continuing to expand our policy of diversifying energy production. Our goal is to reach 30 percent of renewables in the energy mix by 2030. We are at 20 percent today.

 

Apart from renewable energies, are there other objectives or measures you have adopted to ensure greater sustainability in the energy sector?

I believe we need to continue investing in new technologies and to monitor the system. The introduction of renewable energy allows users to save money and recourse to new technologies is therefore fundamental. We have therefore launched technological innovations in Senegal that will allow us to guarantee universal access to electricity. We will do this by exploiting all the technologies—grid, off-grid, mini-grid—but also via the photovoltaic kits distributed in rural areas, where the greatest efforts must be made to achieve universal electrification by 2025.

 

The share of biomass in Senegal's energy mix for the supply of primary energy is very high, and we know that the use of biomass has heavy repercussions for forests. Has the Ministry of Energy introduced measures to protect forests? How are you trying to solve the problem?

We are deeply committed to protecting our forest resources and all our natural resources in general. Just six months since his re-election, the President of Senegal has launched an ambitious initiative, one of the most important ever seen, to create a “green Senegal.” For this purpose, the head of state has established an agency for reforestation. Countering the use of coal and wood as energy sources is central to our efforts. For this purpose, we are not only working on a macro level, to improve the coverage of our country’s electricity grid using various technologies mentioned (grid, off-grid, mini-grid and photovoltaic kits distributed in rural areas), but have also developed programs to install and disseminate biodigestors as part of the Programme National de Biogaz (PNB). These plants allow the development of organic fertilizers to fertilize the soil starting from basic resources, increasing the agricultural performance of rural populations and at the same time providing them with clean energy for cooking and lighting with biogas. These are extremely important programs. Safeguarding forests is a priority for the Senegalese government.