Gambia (2012)

Source: REEEP Policy Database (contributed by SERN for REEEP)

This policy & regulatory overview is not updated anymore since 2015. We decided to keep it online due to high demand but would like to make you aware of the fact that it might be outdated.

Energy sources

Total installed electricity capacity (2008): 53 MW

Total primary energy supply (2008): 464.3 ktoe
Biomass: 70%
Oil and oil Products: 27.4%
Natural Gas: 0.6%
All conventional electricity is produced mainly by thermal generation, and by the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC), the sole distributor throughout the country. The main power station at Kotu (rated capacity 46 MW, actual capacity 25 MW), runs on heavy fuel oil (HFO). In rural areas, NAWEC operates six small scale power systems served by stand-alone electricity subsystems in the provincial centres of Bansang (420 kW), Janjanbureh (270 kW), Kerewan (142 kW), Basse (640 kW), Farafenni (400 kW), and Mansakonko (400 kW). Electricity generation in 2008 totalled 242 GWh, with a per capita electricity consumption that year of 132 kWh.
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The Gambia is heavily dependent on imports to meet its petroleum requirements. These include Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) as a cooking fuel substitute, and diesel and heavy fuel oil for generating electricity. Petroleum products accounted for approximately 27% of the total primary energy demand in 2008, including their use as the sole fuel for power generation in the country. Oil and petroleum product imports in 2009 were estimated at 2,807 bbl/day. Approximately 15.5% of the country’s total import balance was spent on fuels in 2008, totalling US$ 47 million. There is currently no domestic oil production, but companies are exploring potential deposits offshore. Close Reliance

Extend network

Nationwide, as of 2011, the urban electrification rate stood at 60%, with approximately 30% of rural households having electricity access. 93% of the population of Banjul, the capital, had electricity access. The North Bank and Central River regions of the country are currently the least electrified, with 7% and 8% of households respectively having electricity access in those regions.

In 2000, a rural electrification project was started, with the construction of six power plants and transmission lines to supply a large number of towns and villages. Also in 2000, a project was approved which consisted of the construction of six power stations (combined capacity of 6.2 MW), and the installation of 141 miles (227 km) of transmission and distribution lines, to supply power to 46 towns and villages. As of 2009, approximately 2.2 MW of this target has been achieved. The total cost of the rural electrification project is estimated at US$19 million, with additional financing coming from international donors. The majority of the electricity grid is 33 kV, with 11 kV distribution feeders.
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Capacity concerns

In the Gambia, a complete reliance on imported petroleum fuels has resulted in a balance of payments deficit. The impact has been an acute shortage of electricity supply, with low investments and productivity impacting on the overall economy. Transport, construction and the electricity sector are the major consumers of petroleum products in the country. The lack of a reliable household electricity supply for the majority of the population has lead to the endemic use of traditional biomass fuels for household needs, especially in rural areas. Approximately 95% of the population were using solid fuels as of 2008.

NAWEC, the public utilities supplier, was not operating on a commercial basis and couldn't generate sufficient financial revenues to maintain and upgrade the systems and infrastructure. Problems include under-investment, an inflexible tariff system, rising fuel prices, distribution and transmission losses nearing 40%, and non-payment of bill arrears, particularly by large commercial and industrial consumers. As a result, the company has difficulties in meeting its operating costs, investing in generation capacity, and replacing obsolete equipment. The system requires significant investment to operate efficiently and meet growing demand.
The electricity generation capacity increased tremendously after the commissioning of the power plant in Brikama (4 x 6.5 MW generators running on HFO), in August 2006. The first truly Independent Power Producer (IPP) power plant of 25 MW has an output capacity of 22 MW. This new installation adds to the existing installed capacity at the main power station at Kotu by about 28 MW, to provide an available capacity of 50 MW in the Greater Banjul Area.
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Renewable energy

Solar energy
The Gambia has a substantial solar energy potential of 4.5–5.3 kW/m²/day - one of the most promising RE sources of the country. The country receives approximately 2,500 hours of sunshine yearly. By the end of 2006, PV installations with a capacity of more than 700 kWp were installed. In addition to PV, solar cookers and solar water heating units have also been installed to good effect in the country. A number of systems have been installed for applications such as water pumping, telecommunications, refrigeration, and community lighting under various projects, including the CILSS Regional Solar Programme (RSP) funded by the European Development Fund (EDF). Domestic lighting from PV was also provided for under this project.

Wind energy
An ADB-funded Renewable Energy Study in 2004/5 focused primarily on the wind resource in the country. Eight wind measuring stations were constructed, measuring speeds at 30 metres. The available wind speeds across the Gambia are about 3 m/s on average. Presently, about 20 wind power applications are in operation for water pumping purposes. Even though the available wind power potential is modest, the coastal areas offer substantial opportunities.
A pilot project is being implemented in Batakunku Village - a 150 kVA generator. The Batakunku windmill is a philanthropic project which will provide electricity for the villagers when there is wind, with any excess being pumped into the transmission network, and power obtained from NAWEC when there is no wind. The project also marked the first fully-implemented IPP involvement in the generation and distribution sectors.
The project was implemented in two phases. The initial phase was to connect the village to the grid in July 2008. The second phase involved construction, which started in November 2008. The system was finally commissioned fully in 2009.
Biomass energy
The use of fuel wood and residues from wood processing for electricity generation is not encouraged, due to constraints in the utilization of wood for domestic cooking. More than 90% of the population rely on wood to meet their energy needs. The use of other types of biomass is quite low due to the limited availability of agricultural waste and other potential sources.
There are some limited activities in the field of biofuels, mainly produced from jatropha. Several projects were initiated by the government in the 1980s to reduce the country’s dependence on fuel wood and charcoal. This included the promotion of improved cooking stoves using firewood or charcoal and groundnut shell briquettes.
Recently the Department of State for Petroleum, Energy and Mineral Resources (DoSPEMR) participated in the promotion of biogas through the Peri-Urban Project for Agriculture. Within this, 20 biogas digesters in rural and peri-urban areas were implemented. At least two of these sites are running satisfactorily. In addition, Naanovo Energy Gambia Ltd., a subsidiary of the American Naanovo Energy, has signed a 25-year PPA with NAWEC for a 14 MW waste-to-energy plant in the country. In addition, Electronic Solar, an Italian firm, has expressed interest in a combined waste and miscanthus gas project, totalling 10 MW. 
Geothermal energy
No study into the geothermal potential of the Gambia has been conducted. Potential heat reserves in deep aquifers have been mooted as a possible avenue of investigation, but no research is currently being conducted.
The feasibility of using hydro-power is being examined within a sub-regional framework. The Gambia in and of itself has no hydropower potential. The country, however, is co-operating with Guinea, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau to construct two large-scale hydropower generation units at Sambagalo (Senegal) and Kaleta (Guinea), under the Gambia River Basin Development Organisation (OMVG).
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Energy efficiency

The government has adopted a policy of discrimination against the use of incandescent light bulbs in all government buildings, including public enterprises. All lighting must be from fluorescent tubes or CFL bulbs.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), the national regulator, replaced all incandescent bulbs in their office in December 2007 and currently saves more than GMD 42,000 annually. In September 2008, PURA launched a project, installing 2000 CFLs in more than 150 households in the Kanifing South Residential layout. The aim of this project was to raise awareness, and to demonstrate to consumers how efficient lighting can reduce their monthly bills. Grid stability was also improved as a result of the project, with NAWEC reporting reduced current levels and an improvement in voltages, from 207 to 220 volts.
The most significant contributors to electricity consumption in Gambian households are, lighting, entertainment (TVs, etc.) and refrigeration. Primary energy consumption per capita is 0.081 toe. Air conditioning in office buildings contributes significantly to the energy consumption by businesses. Electricity consumption per capita is slightly above the West African average (129 kWh), standing at 136 kWh in 2008.
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Electricity market
In 2000, the government set up a Gambia Divestiture Agency in order to dismiss state participation in several enterprises, including the National Water and Electric Company (NAWEC, In June 2000, NAWEC signed an agreement with South Africa’s Eskom, who were to acquire a 50% stake in NAWEC and participate in a US$75 million investment program to overhaul NAWEC’s generating plants over the following five years. The agreement, which was to include financing from the World Bank, was abandoned three months later, and the credit was cancelled. In 2006, the management of NAWEC were appointed to a company called Global Management Systems, which is officially from Germany (and whose management have been previously linked with the petroleum imports sector in the country). There is one independent power producer; Global Electric Company (GEG), which is a privately owned company producing electricity under the Electricity Act. GEG has one power plant located in Brikama Kabafita, running on heavy fuel oil. The GEG sells energy to, and shares the management with, the single buyer NAWEC. Tariffs are extremely high in Gambia, and the sector is characterised by a general lack of transparency.

Oil and gas market
Recent studies have indicated a good offshore potential for hydrocarbons in the Gambia. The objective of the 2004 Petroleum Act was to ensure the efficient administration and management of the country’s hydrocarbon resources for the maximum benefit of the Gambian people. There are four companies involved in the retail of liquid fuels: Galp Energia Gambia, Total, Elton Oil, and Castle Oil Ltd. Coherent legislation for the downstream sector does not yet exist. The Department of State for Finance and Economic Affairs (DoSFEA) plays a major role in the downstream sector, as well as the newly-formed Gambia National Petroleum Company, representing the state in the oil and gas sector.
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In 2006, the Electricity Law was passed, which has opened up the generation component of the electricity sector to private investors, and as a result the private GEG plant was completed, with a current installed capacity of 25 MW. The law also allows for private sector participation in the distribution of electricity. However, up to now, NAWEC has been the main producer and distributor of commercial electricity throughout the country. It is a vertically integrated company and the single buyer for IPPs. The organisation is currently 92.7% owned by the government, with the remaining shares being owned by the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC), and the Gambia Port Authority (GPA). The Batakunku wind power project is currently operated outside of the NAWEC remit, with distribution carried out internally.

The GNPC is a government subsidiary, responsible to the DoSFEA.
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Energy framework

The National Energy Policy is consistent with objectives outlined in the Vision 2020 and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). The long-term aim is to maximise efficient development and utilization of scarce energy resources to support economic development in an environmentally friendly way. The overall objectives are to:

  • improve and expand  energy systems through private sector partnership,
  • promote a domestic fuel sub-sector, focusing on sustainable management of forests,
  • widen  access to modern forms of energy to stimulate development and reduce poverty,
  • provide adequate security of energy supply, and
  • strengthen institutional and human resource capacity, and enhance research and development (R&D).
The National Electricity Policy (2005) further promotes private sector participation in the electricity sector, and also sets out a framework for the licensing of private generation, transmission and distribution operators. In addition, a tariff approval model and set of guidelines were created.
According to the National Energy Policy document, the aim of the RE sub-sector is to support sustainable development. The specific objectives are to: 
(i) promote renewable energy such as solar, wind and biomass, 
(ii) develop a domestic production capacity from RE fuels and technologies, and 
(iii) ensure the sustainable supply of RE fuels and technologies at competitive prices through private sector participation.
The Policy also encourages the use of alternative fuels and technologies as a substitute for petroleum products by: 
(i) exploring the prospects of using gas, HFO, modern biomass (including bioenergy, groundnut shell and sawdust briquettes and bagasse) for energy generation, 
(ii) complementing the government’s fiscal incentives with donor assistance to promote the use of efficient fuels and technologies, 
(iii) continuing to provide fiscal incentives for fuel supply to the rural electrification project, and 
(iv) encouraging investment in efficient technologies for energy generation.
To promote new and RE technologies, the following strategies are formulated: 
(i) popularise the use of solar PV, solar thermal and other RE systems, particularly in rural areas, 
(ii) facilitate local and international donor  provision of grants, interest-free loans, and other fiscal incentives for  renewable energy, including solar PV and thermal, wind and biomass systems, 
(iii) promote the use of solar water heaters in institutions, hotels and households, 
(iv) create awareness of the economic and environmental benefits of using RE technologies, 
(v) promote research and development of RE devices, 
(vi) encourage the production/assembly of RE devices in the Gambia, 
(vii) encourage utilization of efficient RE technologies by providing tax-free concessions
(viii) encourage and support private sector participation in the development of RE fuels, devices and technologies, at competitive prices.
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Energy debates

On 5 September 2010, the government signed an agreement with Malaysian firm Clearlink, to improve the capacity of, and infrastructure relating to, the Kotu power station, as well as rehabilitation of the country's distribution network.

License applications have also been submitted for a further 900 kVA wind farm in the country, as well as a 60 kW solar hybrid system, submitted in March 2011 through the GEF.
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Energy studies

The Gambia is part of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), comprising 14 nations, which aims to develop energy production facilities and interconnect individual country grids. The country is also involved in the second phase of expansion of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in their effort to improve grid inter-connection and cooperation between states. WAPP projects in the Gambia include the planned construction of the Brikama and Soma substations, to connect the NAWEC generating facilities with the regional grid through Senegal, via three proposed 220 kV lines: from Brikama to Soma indigenously, and linking Soma with the proposed Kaolack and Tanaf substations in Senegal. Close Energy studies

Role of government

The energy sector of the Gambia is controlled by the Department of State for Petroleum, Energy and Mineral Resources (DoSPEMR) created in September 2007. It serves as the main policy adviser regarding all aspects of energy. Prior to this period, the energy sector was under the purview of the Office of the President from February 2002. 

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) was created by the government of Gambia in order to regulate the electricity, water and telecommunication sectors of the country.
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Government agencies

The Gambia Renewable Energy Centre (GREC) is the technical supporter of the DoSPEMR, responsible for renewable energy research, development and promotion. The Forestry Department (Department of State for Forestry, Natural Resources nd the Environment – DoSFNRE) is responsible for the management of forest resources. The Forestry Act provides for commercial trade in fuel wood and regulation of the movement of forest produce requiring licenses.

The Department of Community Development is the technical supporter of the Department of State for Local Government, Lands & Religious Affairs (DoSLGL&RA). The department promotes the efficient management of fuel wood resources through the promotion of substitutes, and improved end-use appliances, such as improved cooking stoves and biogas research.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) is tasked with the formation, implementation, and monitoring of compliance with environment standards.
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Energy procedure

The government has demonstrated its commitment to the promotion of energy efficiency by preparing a draft National Energy Policy, in which wide ranging measures are proposed for promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

At the moment, the national utility, NAWEC, is the only provider of grid-electricity in the rural areas. The DoSPEMR however, is encouraging the use of RE in the rural electrification program through private sector participation. A number of private parties have installed stand-alone PV systems and solar water pumping systems in some villages.
With regards to incentives for RE and energy efficient devices, the government of Gambia adopted a policy in March 2008 to encourage the use of RE and energy efficiency (EE) by granting a zero-import tax status to all solar PV panels, solar water heaters, wind energy equipment and energy efficient light bulbs (compact fluorescent lamps). In addition, there is no license fee for operators in the electricity sub-sector using RE.
As the national policy encourages the use of RE and EE, the government welcomes and facilitates all initiatives of companies or other investors, planning to invest in RE and EE devices. In most instances, additional incentives are provided by the Gambia Investment Promotion and Free Zone Agency (GIPFZA) for investments, especially in energy and RE. In particular, the government through the GREC seeks to promote solar photovoltaics, biomass (currently dominated by agricultural waste usage) and wind-powered water pumping.
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Energy regulator

A public utilities authority was established in 2001.

The Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA, Act, 2001 provides for the establishment of PURA, a multi-sector regulatory authority, to regulate the activities of providers of certain public utilities, amongst them energy services (electricity, petroleum and gas), communications services (telecommunications, broadcasting and postal services), water and sewerage services, and transport services (on land, water and in the air).
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Degree of independence

The governing Board of PURA is appointed by the President of the Republic of Gambia  on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Finance and Economic Affairs. The Board appointed in October 2004 had a term limit of three years, which ended in September 2007. It was reconstituted in December 2007 with the Chairman re-appointed for one further term of three years. The Board comprises of a non-executive Chairperson, two non-executive commissioners, an ex-officio member, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of State for Finance and Economic Affairs, the Director General, two Executive Directors, and the Administration and Human Resources Manager of PURA as the Secretary to the Board. PURA is allowed to charge a maximum of 1.5% of a regulated operator’s turnover in fees for regulation, and also receives funding from the government. Close Degree of independence

Regulatory framework

The Electricity Act provides the framework for regulation relating to electricity generation from renewable energies on a commercial basis, standards in terms of electricity generating or consuming devices, and personnel to be licensed for any electrical works etc. For other RE fuels, provision has been made in the draft Petroleum Products Legislation. For the devices in the domestic energy sub-sector, e.g. improved cook-stoves; there are no provisions for regulation, legislation or standardisation. These are produced according to regional or sub-regional specifications and track records. Close Regulatory framework

Regulatory roles

The key functions of PURA (as set out in the PURA Act 2001) are to:
  • provide guidelines on rates and fees for the provision of regulated public services,
  • examine rates and fees chargeable for the provision of regulated public services,
  • protect the interests of consumers, 
  • monitor and enforce standards of performance,
  • initiate and conduct investigations into standards of services by public utilities,
  • promote fair competition among public utilities,
  • conduct studies relating to economies and efficiency in the provision of regulated public services to consumers,
  • collect and compile data on regulated public services,
  • recommend and administer a licensing system for public utilities, and
  • provide advice or assistance in order to help a public utility comply with a requirement of the Act, or of any license.
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Energy regulation role

The DoSFNRE is partially involved in energy regulation, in that it is responsible for the formulation of forestry policy in the country, and therefore responsible for issuing forestry licenses and monitoring the use of the nation's biomass resource. The DoSLGL&RA is also indirectly responsible for energy regulation, in that it is responsible for the promotion of sustainable energy use in the country. Close Energy regulation role

Regulatory barriers

Currently, the legislative and regulatory framework for renewable energy is in it's infancy in the country. Continued development of the current draft programs, with a particular view to encouraging private-sector investment, would be beneficial. In addition, the necessity for further capacity-building in technical and government institutions has been identified. Training seminars are being conducted currently to address this issue. The regulatory performance of PURA in the energy sector is also currently being hampered by a lack of fee recovery. For the 2009 regulatory period, a total of GMD 3,914,010 was left outstanding by NAWEC and the GEG, constraining the effectiveness of PURA’s operations in the sector. Close Regulatory barriers


IRENA (2010): "Renewable energy country profile: Gambia". Available at: [Accessed 28 July 2013]

Gambia Information Site: "NAWEC Gambia Limited". [Accessed 28 July 2013]

IndexMundi: "The Gambia oil - imports - energy". [Accessed 28 July 2013]

Gambia Information Site: "Energy Sector in Gambia". [Accessed 28 July 2013] "Batakunku wind farm", October 2011. [Accessed 28 July 2013]

GambiaNow: "Gambia dancing for the electricity". [Accessed 31 July 2013]

Naanovo Energy: "Naanovo Energy to build WTE plant in The Gambia", 8th January 2008.[1].pdf [Accessed 28 July 2013]

PURA: "Energy efficiency". [Accessed 28 July 2013]

Gambia Information Site: "Gambia National Petroleum Company". [Accessed 28 July 2013]

West Africa Power Pool: "Power Grid". [Accessed 28 July 2013]

Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA): "Energy". [Accessed 28 July 2013]

Gambia New Online: "Low payment of regulatory fees hampers PURA's activities", 15th March 2011. [Accessed 28 July 2013]

Sompo Ceesay, M. L. (2011): "Promoting RE through community-driven electrification using wind turbines", NARUC Workshop, Nairobi, Kenya, 16-18 March 2011. [Accessed 28 July 2013] Close References