FACT-CHECK: Does The Gambia have Enough Electricity Capacity?

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A generator of The Gambia's national electricity provider, NAWEC, which faces increasing financial problems. (Photo Credit: Access Gambia)

By Louise S A Taylor

Claim: The Gambia has enough [electricity] capacity

Source: President Adama Barrow

Verdict: True

Since Independence, The Gambia has not been able to fully connect rural communities and achieve uninterrupted electricity supply for the majority of residents. This has had a negative impact on the Gambia’s prospects for industrialization and the stability of other services which depend on electricity.

During his Eid Ul Fitr speech to Banjul Muslim Elders delivered on 2nd May, 2022 at State House, President Adama Barrow told the audience that the country has sufficient capacity to supply electricity throughout the country.

In fact, this is not the first time President Barrow made such statements on his government addressing the electricity challenge in the country. A fact-check published on Fact Check Gambia published in December 2021 found that President Barrow’s claim to have reduced power cuts from 17 to 19 times a day down to 2 to 3 times a day as False.

This fact check looks into the veracity of President Barrow’s claims that there is sufficient electricity capacity and that the synchronization would take only three weeks.

Fact Check Gambia interviewed an official at the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) as part of the verification process.

Claim: Speaking in Wollof during his televised speech to Banjul Muslim Elders, President Adama Barrow claimed that “Mr Senghore has spoken about NAWEC. I want to tell you that we have done a lot of work on NAWEC. At the moment the Gambia has enough capacity. We are even shutting down some of our machines because there is sufficient capacity. Nothing more is needed”.

Explaining further, President Barrow added that “the capacity is mixed, we have our generators, we have OMVG and we have the Karpower Ship supplying electricity. At the moment, to synchronize them is the problem right now”.

To address this problem, President Barrow notes that “when I spoke to the manager at NAWEC he said that withing 1 week or two weeks the synchronization will be complete because they are coming from different power sources. But with regards to capacity there is sufficient electricity capacity at the moment”.

(Listen from 06:06 to 07:28 minutes)

FactCheck: In an exclusive interview with the Manager for Quality and Standard Works at Transmission and Distribution Department at NAWEC, Benedict Jarju, said that currently the country has three sources of power.

These are NAWEC Generators, the OMVG project, and the Karpower Ship. Together, these three sources of electricity, provide power for the urban and rural areas of the country.

According to Jarju, the four NAWEC Power Stations provide a total of 107 MW. However, this is more than the highest load recorded in The Gambia, which is 92 MW for the entire country. Although it is expected that this figure will continue to increase as other remote areas are connected to the national grid.

The Gambia has an agreement with the OMVG for a 30MW supply out of a total capacity of 50MW, which will be used to supply future areas of development in the country.

The third source of power is the Turkish Karpower Ship which is docked in Banjul. This brings the Gambia’s total electricity capacity up to 167MW with the possibility to increase to 187MW, plus the OMVG agreement which includes an additional 20MW capacity.

Asked if the Gambia’s total capacity of 167MW is sufficient for the entire country, Jarju said that “from all these years that we have been operating, the peak recorded load is 92MW. The highest recorded load with everywhere switched on, 92MW is the highest ever recorded load ever”.

“With the Karpower, [OMVG] and our installed capacity, you will see that we are [up to] 167MW and we need [just over] 90MW to supply the entire grid. Meaning we are ok when it comes to capacity,” the NAWEC official said.

Synchronization

Jarju explained that “synchronization here means [to] bringing different networks together. When we talk of synchronization this is harmonize our generators, OMVG and Karpower. For synchronization to happen we have parameters – the voltage, frequency and others should be calibrated to complete synchronization.”

In addition to this, there are additional transmission and distribution equipment which need to be installed and, in some cases, upgraded to complete synchronization.

While Barrow claims that the synchronisation will last between one and two weeks, Jarju told Fact-Check Gambia that the amount of work to be undertaken could take up to the end of the year.

NDP electricity capacity, coverage target

Electricity is identified among the strategic priorities in the National Development Plan 2018-2021 to increase the installed capacity of the country from 102MW to 250MW by 2025. It can be seen that the Gambia’s capacity has increased to 167MW as at the end of 2021. This means that the country’s electricity capacity has increased by 65MW.

To meet the target of 250MW by the end of 2025, the Gambia will need to increase its electricity capacity by a further 85MW in the next three years.

In addition to, this the NDP also pledges to “increase the percentage of Gambian population with access to electricity from 40% to 60%”. World Bank Statistics indicate that access to electricity increased from 56.2% in 2017 when President Barrow became President to 62.3% in 2020.

Verdict: Given the information revealed by the NAWEC Official it can be seen that the Gambia currently has sufficient electricity capacity. The current electricity capacity of 167MW is less than NAWEC’s official highest peak load recorded of 92MW.

Therefore, Barrow’s claim is TRUE.

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