UNDP, the Global Environment Facility, the African Bank of Development and the governments of ten countries (Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Mali, Rwanda, Togo) joined together to organize the first regional electrical project of energy production development in rural areas based on mini or micro-hydroelectric plants. This project provided to targeted rural communities a base level of self-financing decentralized services of electricity production with the support of the GEF. This project allowed them to develop their economy, and was also an incentive to private investments, economical growth and fight against urban drift.
UNDP gave Econoler International the mandate to assemble as much data as it could and use the data already available on chosen sites to carry out a technical and financial pre-feasibility study on the basis of site visits and the RETScreen software. The RETScreen International Renewable Energy Project Analysis Software is a unique decision support tool developed with the contribution of numerous experts from government, industry, and academic fields. This very useful software, provided free-of-charge, can be used worldwide to evaluate the energy production, life-cycle costs and greenhouse gas emission reductions for various types of renewable energy technologies (RETs). This software includes databases of products, costs and weather data as well as an online handbook for users.
The specific objectives of the project were as follows:
- Introducing in each country innovative technologies of mini or micro-hydroelectric plants and testing the most suitable models for their exploitation (including management and maintenance) in a rural environment.
- Assessing the impact of the project on the environment in order to minimize it and respect the local ecological conditions.
- Identifying and testing the barriers and constraints for the promotion of this technology for areas with a certain economic potential and where durability, in commercial terms, had some chances of success. In fact, durability depends on the creation of an incentive business environment and the removal of barriers and constraints which could slow down the adoption of these technologies.
- Conceiving specific regional strategies to remove these constraints.
- Using this project to promote the reforms of the electric sector of the participating countries.
- Developing in these countries technical, operational, legal and institutional capacities for the design and implementation of these mini or micro-hydroelectric plants.
- Evaluating the financial profit of these investments in order to establish a favorable framework on a large scale operation that would satisfy the needs of the local populations and possibly their interconnection with the local area networks.
- Developing the interest of the regional economic actors and banks for the financing of similar projects.