Niger has started generating electricity from a solar plant near the capital Niamey to make up for power shortages caused by neighboring Nigeria cutting energy supplies, according to several reports.
Niger’s oil, mines and energy minister, who visited the plant last week, said on Sunday that the plant had led to an “improvement in the quality” of electricity in Niamey, as well as in Dosso and Tillaberi, two nearby towns.
➞ Why now? Neighbor Nigeria suspended its supply of electricity to Niger following the July 26 coup that ousted the civilian administration of President Mohamed Bazoum. Nigeria’s supply had accounted for 70% of Niger’s needs, hence the suspension left the latter with long and frequent power outages across the country. Nigeria cut its supply after the regional bloc Ecowas (chaired by Nigeria president Bola Tinubu) imposed sanctions in response to the coup.
➞ Has the solar facility always been there? This plant was built by a French consortium for 20 billion CFA francs ($33 million) after being commissioned in 2018. It was inaugurated by Bazoum and French diplomats in early July and set for use in August. But Niger has been home to several smaller solar projects for a few years now, such as the Irhazer project, also financed by France, near Agadez in the north (pictured).
➞ What is the plant’s capacity? The Gorou Banda plant consists of nearly 56,000 solar panels that can generate 30 megawatts of electricity. It is built to provide power to 500,000 residents in and around Niamey. Even with Nigeria’s supply, less than a fifth of Niger’s 24 million residents had access to electricity, according to the World Bank’s 2021 estimate.
➞ Why are there doubts about Niger’s plant? The French embassy in Niger said on Monday that the plant “could not be finalized under the conditions initially planned” and that “operational risks” would arise in running it as it is. A planned launch late August was delayed after technical staff on site vacated following increased tensions between France and the Nigerien junta after the coup. However, Niger’s energy minister said the country has relied on “certain technicians who remained in Niamey” to operate the plant.