Renewable energy projects are being developed in tandem with natural gas fields to meet national needs
Mauritania’s energy sector is led by the Ministry of Petroleum, Mines and Energy (MPME), which has the primary objectives of boosting equal access to energy, developing low-carbon solutions, and positioning the sector as an engine of growth and job creation. The Regulatory Authority issues licences and ensures adherence to the 2001 Electrical Code, while the state-owned power utility, the Société Mauritanienne d’Electricité (SOMELEC), is in charge of the electricity segment. It has plans to separate production and transport from distribution and marketing, and reform the segment to attract independent power producers.
Mauritania’s electricity grid is largely powered by fossil fuels, predominantly fuel oil and gasoil, with increasing diversification into solar, wind and hydropower. Biomass, primarily charcoal and wood, is important for household energy and cooking.
Under the IMF-backed national development plan, the Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Shared Prosperity 2016-30, the government seeks to alleviate poverty by raising investment in renewables and expanding electricity access to 100% of the population by 2030, up from about 46% in 2019. SOMELEC sought to raise renewables’ share of the energy mix to 60% by the end of 2021, while also developing the transmission network and grid connections with other countries to allow for energy trading. As of 2019 the share of electricity generated from renewable sources – namely, hydropower, solar and wind energy – stood at 52% of the mix, up from 14% in 2000. Imported hydropower from installations along the Senegal River contributed to that source’s share of the mix overtaking gas in 2019.
SOLAR & WIND
In July 2021 the African Development Bank approved a $6m grant to kick off the first phase of the Desert to Power West Africa Regional Energy Programme. The West African Power Pool will use the funds to conduct pre-feasibility studies for the construction of the Sahel Transmission Backbone, which will connect solar parks in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. As it stands, the 15-MW Sheikh Zayed Solar Power Plant in Nouakchott is the centrepiece of Mauritania’s solar energy segment, connecting 10,000 homes with power.
Meanwhile, the country’s first major wind farm, a 30-MW facility outside of Nouakchott built by Spanish firm Elecnor, has been operational since 2014 and generating carbon credits since 2018. A second farm in Boulenouar, where Elecnor is partnering with Siemens-Gamesa Renewable Energy to build a 100-MW facility, was in its final phase of development in 2021.
Mauritania is seeking to capitalise on its geographical position and renewable energy resources to launch large-scale green hydrogen projects. In May 2021 the government and US renewables company CWP Global agreed to build a 30-GW wind and solar power facility in the northern part of Mauritania, where the power is intended to create green hydrogen for worldwide export. In September of the same year Chariot, an Africa-based energy company, signed a memorandum of understanding with the government to explore a $3.5bn green hydrogen project that includes two onshore solar licences and an offshore wind element.
In 2018 Mauritania and Senegal signed an agreement to share output from the 33,000-sq-km Greater Tortue Ahmeyim gas field, which is estimated to contain 15trn cu feet of recoverable gas reserves in the waters between the two countries. The project is set to produce 2.5m tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per annum in its first phase of development after commercial production begins in 2023. Gas will be sent via pipeline to Mauritania and Senegal for domestic consumption, and a near-shore floating LNG vessel will receive processed gas destined for export.
The government’s Gas-to-Power strategy seeks to reduce dependence on imported fuel and secure national supply, and a Gas Master Plan is being developed by the MPME. In this vein, discussions are under way to develop the Branda gas field with foreign firms.
This information was originally published by Oxford Business Group (OBG), the global publishing, research and consultancy firm. Copyright Oxford Business Group 2021. Published under permission by OBG. For economic news about Mauritania and other countries covered by OBG, please visit: Oxford Business Group.