The Gambia relies entirely on imported fossil fuel for electricity generation – mainly HFO - for the main power plants in GBA, and Provincial towns as well as the Turkish emergency Karpowership. These facilities are operated by National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) and Karadeniz Power ship Koray Bey Company Limited - an Independent Power Producer (IPP).
In 2018, the effective electric installed capacity in The Gambia was around 135 MW. About 73% of this installed capacity is operated by NAWEC while the remaining 27% is operated by an IPP (Karpowership).
Currently, Electricity is transmitted from these stations for distribution via five radial 11 kV feeders and three 33 kV feeders. The Gambian distribution system (below 66 kV) is plagued with inefficiencies at the distribution level while the transmission system (66 kV and above) is nonexistent. These factors lead to high technical losses and unfeasible electricity transport over long distances. The rehabilitation of the existing distribution network and the creation of a transmission backbone (supported by the forthcoming OMVG 225 kV line from Soma to Brikama) will allow the reduction of losses and the unification of the country power system under a unique interconnected grid.
In the Gambia, Renewable energy represents a tremendous opportunity, according to the “Potential Assessment Study of Renewable Energy Resources in the Gambia, 2006, the following renewable energy has been found to be available: Solar, wind and biomass. Hydro potentials are non-existing in the Gambian territory.
The average annual solar insolation for The Gambia is 4.5-5.3 kWh/m2-day, which represents a high generating potential for the country, making it interesting for PV Power Plants, Solar Home Systems (SHS), solar heater for the domestic and hotel industry and Hybrid Diesel-PV Systems. It has been used since the early 1980s for water pumping and telecommunication facilities. The country has already implemented several PV based projects including the European Union-sponsored solar PV pumping, SHS projects and PV-Diesel hybrid system in Darsilami.
Solar Thermal technology involves the application of the heat of solar rays for heat energy; mostly used for solar water heaters and electricity generation using concentrated mirrors to heat a medium to power a generator; solar distillation and solar dryers for fruits and vegetables.
Wind energy resources, unlike solar, are not as widespread and evenly distributed in The Gambia. It is more peculiar to specific locations and areas. Wind energy can be used for both electricity generation and mechanical power.
The wind conditions in the Gambia are moderate (below 4.0 m/s at 30 m height) all over the country, above all in the hinterland (Flores, 2010). Near the coast (e.g. at Kanuma and Jambanjelly) the wind conditions are slightly higher (at 3.4 m/s to 4.2 m/s at 30 m measurement height) than in the interior due to the free wind flow coming from the sea in the West. There are several small-scale projects along the coastal zone of The Gambia both from private investors and NGOs.
In the mechanical energy application, wind energy has been used for water pumping for many decades in The Gambia. This technology has provided water to populations for decades, especially in the absence of electricity services and thereby providing the much-needed vital essentials of life.
The Gambia has a rich variety of woodland ecosystems, including forests, closed and open woodland, tree and shrub savannah, mangrove, riparian and fringing savannah. The Gambia’s forest cover has declined from 60% in the 1960s to 43% of the land area today.
It's forest and woodland ecosystems supply about 85% of domestic energy requirements. Fuelwood accounts for more than 90% of household energy consumption and is often used in inefficient stoves. Thereby encouraging and popularizing the adoption and utilization of efficient and clean cooking devices and fuels.
Given the flat nature of the country’s topography, there is negligible hydro potential within the country, however, at the regional level, the likelihood for the Gambia to benefit from cheap hydroelectricity imports are high. At the regional level, The Gambia hoped to participate in both generation and transmission in its capacity as a member country of The Gambia River Basin Development Organisation (OMVG). Two-generation and one transmission project are to be implemented in the subregion.
These include a 128 MW hydropower dam in Senegal (Sambangalou) and a 240 MW hydropower dam in Guinea (Kaleta). It also includes a 225 kilovolt (kV) transmission line of 1 677 km that interconnects the four countries to the two-generation plants. The government of Guinea has completed the construction of the Kaleta Dam while that of Sambagalou Dam is being concluded and is showing positive results.