Cape Verde’s transition to renewables is proving so successful that the African state has decided to raise its ambition and target 100% renewables by 2020.
The government of Cape Verde, a group of islands with over 500,000 inhabitants set in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of west Africa, originally decided to transition to renewable energy in 2010, when it set a goal for the sector to produce 50% of electricity by 2020.
Wind power development has been led by Cabeólica, set up by the government in 2010. During 2011 and 2012 the company started up four wind farms with combined generating capacity of 25.5 MW on four of Cabo Verde’s nine inhabited islands: Santiago, São Vicente, Sal (pictured) and Boa Vista. This allowed around a quarter of the country’s power to come from wind power.
The government has now revised its renewable goals, targeting 50% by the end of 2018 and reaching 100% by 2020. This will eliminate the need to import expensive fuel oil except for back-up generation. The $90m development costs were provided by the European Investment Bank and African Development Bank.
“Cape Verde wants to serve as a laboratory,” Energy Minister Anildo Costa told CNN last year. “We’ll invest in technological innovations so we can learn over time, and fully adopt those technologies once they become profitable for the country.
“Given the share of renewable energy in our network, and our intensive experience of these technologies, we should be able to share this experience beyond our borders.”
Cape Verde is being innovative in the way it integrates desalination into its energy strategy. Desalination plants consume 15% of electricity production in the country and more capacity is likely to be needed as tourism grows and the government seeks to provide universal piped water supplies.
To compensate for variations in wind power production, it plans to shut desalination plants 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.