Greening energy: the politics of siting solar in Senegal

Authors: Mara Van Den Bold*, Clark University
Topics: Energy, Africa, Development
Keywords: renewable energy, solar, Senegal, land, livelihoods
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over the course of the past decade, political attention to and financial investment in renewable energy, particularly solar, has gained significant traction in Senegal. In a bid to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and relieve energy poverty, the country has adopted a renewable energy policy and initiated an institutional framework that aims to attract significant private sector investment to develop large-scale solar facilities, primarily on rural land. Thus far, at least five 20-30 megawatt solar plants – so-called “negotiated deals” – have been developed in the western part of the country since 2015, with at least an additional two facilities – based on competitive auctions – planned for 2019-20 as part of the World Bank’s Scaling Solar initiative, involving French utility and investment companies. These developments are occurring in the context of the country’s mostly customary land tenure system and face challenges with regards to still hazy policy frameworks and differing resettlement schemes for residents living on or near land identified for these projects. Drawing from scholarship in political ecology, energy geographies, and development studies, as well as initial research in Senegal, this paper examines how these large-scale solar projects fit within or create tensions with existing energy regimes, circuits of capital, and social relations, by examining who is involved, in what ways, how they rationalize transitions to renewable energy in Senegal, and what potential implications may be for rural demand for land and livelihoods in the country.

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