Cape Verde targets 100% renewables reliance by 2020

Cape Verde has unveiled plans to exclusively use renewable energy sources to generate electricity by 2020.


Cape Verde has set a target of generating all electricity from renewables by 2020, which would make it the first country in the world to do so.

The government originally decided to focus on a transition to renewables in 2010, when it set a goal for the sector to produce 50% of all electricity by 2020. However, such has been the success of its strategy to date, that it has now decided to double the target. Existing oil fired plants are expected to be kept for back-up.

Wind power development on the islands has been driven by Cabeólica, a company that the government set up in 2010. It now operates four wind farms with combined generating capacity of 25.5 MW on four of the nine inhabited islands: Santiago, São Vicente, Sal and Boa Vista.

The $90m development costs were provided by the European Investment Bank and African Development Bank. Cabeólica is now owned by the government, the Africa Finance Corporation, the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and InfraCo, which is a donor funded development company that supports early stage infrastructure projects in developing countries. All output is sold to the state power utility, Electra, which also holds a stake in Cabeólica.

While donors and development agencies have driven renewable energy development in many parts of Africa, the motivation in Cape Verde has largely come from within, although there has been some external funding. Now, however, the government is keen to attract greater foreign, private sector involvement.

Foreign investment

Delegations of French and Chinese companies have visited the country in the past four months to assess the potential for investing in several sectors, including renewables. Following a meeting with potential French investors in December, Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva said: “Safe, reliable, predictable and with political stability, these are the natural resources of Cabo Verde.”

Cape Verde is being particularly innovative in one aspect of its energy strategy. Desalination plants currently consume 15% of all electricity production in the country and more capacity is likely to be needed as the tourist sector grows and the government seeks to fulfil its pledge of universal piped water supplies.

In order to compensate for fluctuations in wind power production, it plans to shut desalination plants down when wind speeds are low and maximise their use when wind power production is plentiful, effectively using water reserves as a form of energy storage.

Wider implications

It is difficult to say what impact Cape Verde’s strategy will have on other African countries. As with other very small states, particularly island nations, it is very expensive for Cape Verde to import the fuel oil that has traditionally fuelled its power generation. Island microstates usually have little or no ability to import electricity.

It can therefore make economic sense for such countries to fully tap their renewable energy potential, particularly as it is easier to secure funding for such schemes than other sources of power generation. Large continental states, however, have much more scope to trade in electricity, exchanging output from different technologies.

Cape Verde also benefits from plentiful and reliable wind and solar power resources, although the same can be said for large parts of Africa, particularly with regard to solar power. The goal has helped give Cape Verde a much higher profile.

Cabeólica was named the Best Renewable Project at the 2016 Africa Energy Awards and the United Nations is now using the country to promote renewables around the world. Ana Monteiro, the head of Cabeólica’s Environment, Social and Administrative Department, was invited to speak at the launch of the Carbon Neutral Now initiative at the United Nations in August.

S.Vijay Iyer, the head of the World Bank sustainable energy department, said: “I congratulate Cabeólica for demonstrating what small islands can achieve to increase their resilience and protect their natural resources. I hope that others can learn from their innovation and resolve to fashion business strategies and solutions for the unique challenges of island states.”

Neil Ford

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