Cape Verde, a developing nation of 10 islands off the west coast of Africa, has no significant natural resources and has had to depend on the outside world for most things, including energy. The cost of importing all its oil products for electricity generation – and produce 92% of its potable water needs through desalination of sea water – has had severe impacts on the country’s economy, with power shortages leading to frequent blackouts for its 500,000 inhabitants.
The island is turning this situation round thanks to the construction of four wind farms, which now total 25.5 megawatts and provide about a quarter of the country’s power needs. The project, backed by a public-private partnership (PPP) – the first of its kind in Africa – led to the creation of a local company called Cabeólica, tasked with increasing production capacity from local, sustainable resources.
This 60 million-euro investment has important benefits for Cape Verde. Diesel imports have been slashed by an estimated 16,000 tonnes a year, leading to a saving of $1.5 million in 2013 alone and cutting CO2 emissions by 176,000 tonnes.
Significantly, this renewably sourced electricity costs about 10% less than other available options. The wind farms are located on four islands that account for most energy demand and are home to almost three quarters of the population. They are benefitting from electricity supplies that are now more reliable and power cuts have been reduced, even as demand continues to rise.