Ramping up renewables: situating Senegal’s energy story

Authors: Mara Van Den Bold*, Clark University
Topics: Energy, Africa, Development
Keywords: renewable energy, narratives, energy transitions, development, Senegal
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Much research on renewable energy transitions has focused on assessing their technical potential and financial feasibility, as well as their down-scaled impacts on land and resource access. However, much less is known about how renewable energy expansion is framed at the national scale, and what implications this has for policy development and project implementation. In recent years, Senegal has emerged as a leader in renewable energy generation in West Africa, demonstrated by an increase in political attention to and financial investment in the sector, as well as installation of several large-scale solar and wind projects. Increasing renewable energy generation to just over 20% of the country’s total energy mix by 2020 is expected to improve access to electricity, reduce exposure to volatile oil markets, and contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With the objective to reduce prices and increase investor confidence, Senegal is aiming to shift from ‘negotiated deals’ to competitive auctions to implement large projects, with the involvement of a host of international investment corporations, development organizations, and utility companies. Drawing on scholarship from political ecology, critical agrarian studies, and development studies, as well as preliminary findings from field work in Senegal, this paper 1) situates Senegal’s renewable energy developments in the academic literature, 2) examines what kinds of narratives (e.g. about development, climate change, energy) are mobilized by actors involved in renewable energy, and 3) assesses the implications of these narratives for how, where, and what kinds of projects are implemented in the country.

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