Dakar: Climate Change and Energy Sector Impacts

By Lauren O’Reilly

The Greater Dakar Area, located on the Cap de Vert Peninsula on the western coast of Senegal, is home to 25% of the Senegalese population but contains less than 1% of the country’s land (Wang et al., 2009). This densely populated metropolitan area is a major consumer of Senegal’s energy; two thirds of the nation’s electricity is distributed in Dakar (Gokgur and Jones, 2006). A climate risk assessment (Mehrotra et al., 2009) of the energy sector in Dakar shows that there is growing danger to energy infrastructure in Dakar, and therefore the capacity of the city to meet energy demands. A discussion of the results of this analysis are below, followed by recommendations for responding to this risk and mechanisms to operationalize these responses.

Climate Hazards

Various climate change hazards including flooding, coastal erosion and sea level rise threaten both the national energy supply and Dakar’s regional energy system. Over 11 years Dakar has experienced 1.5 cm rise in sea level (Blake et al., 2011). Although this time span is too short to be conclusive, climate projections show the Dakar coast is at risk for coastal erosion, coastal inundation, and flooding (Wang et al., 2009). Climate records over the past 100 years show an overall decrease in precipitation in Dakar (Blake et al., 2011), but more frequent extreme rainfall events, such as those that occurred in 1989 and 2005, have led to more frequent and severe flooding in recent decades (Mbow et al., 2008).


Energy Supply

The country’s important energy infrastructure is located in Dakar. Senelec, Senegal’s national electricity provider, is responsible for generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity throughout the country (Torres et al., 2011). The utility’s most important central thermal power plant, Cap des Biches (Senelec, 2011), located in the Dakar commune of Rufisque, produces 22.2% of Senelec’s total supply (Wang et al., 2009) but is less than 1 meter above sea level and is subject to flooding (Diop, 2009).

The energy sector relies on imported oil for its energy sources and has low hydrocarbon storage capacity,making the system vulnerable to changes in climate patterns that impact fuel storage. Liquefied Petroleum Gas is used by 90% of the Dakar population for cooking (World Bank, 2008), although the poor in the peri-urban areas rely on charcoal and wood when LPG is unavailable (Sarr et al., 2008). The SAR oil refinery, located by the coast on the periphery of Dakar (Diop, 2009), has the capacity to produce about half of Senegal’s energy fuel requirements. The remaining petroleum products are imported and transported by road to Dakar. The Port has inadequate hydrocarbon storage capacity of only 65 days of consumption. Senegal needs to improve its infrastructure for receiving and storing LPG (World Bank, 2010) as illustrated by the variable consumption by the poorer households because of frequent shortages, in addition to oil price increases (Sarr et al., 2008). The already sensitive supply chain could be easily disrupted by an extreme weather event (causing damage to roads and disrupting transportation of petroleum imports), or an increase in oil prices, impacting affordability.

Energy Distribution

Relative to other West African cities, the capital city of Dakar has a high rate of electrification of nearly 90%. However, Senegal’s power supply is unable to meet rapidly growing demand, as seen by the high incidence of power outages. There is an average of 11.8 power outages in a typical month causing a loss to firms and forcing many (24.7%) to produce electricity from their own generator (Torres et al., 2011). The highest rates of electrification are in the city center of Dakar and lower rates are found in the peri-urban areas, which fluctuate depending on financial ability (Sarr et al., 2008). However, due to high connectivity costs electricity in peri-urban areas is often derived from an illegal connection in the form of either suspended or underground wires (Sarr et al., 2008). While legal transmission lines are susceptible to hazard damage, illegal connections are even less resilient, not only because of the nature of their installation but also because they tend to be in areas most vulnerable to flooding.


Because the energy infrastructure is insufficient and will be expanding, it is important to assess the risks posed by increased climate hazards before upgrading the system so that transformers and distribution lines resistant to flooding and sea level rise can be installed. These hazards should also be considered when installing any new transmission lines in the peri-urban and rural areas. Prior to new installations, assessments should be conducted to identify the highest risk areas so installations can be prioritized based on need. It is also important to consider whether certain areas are too high a risk to invest in.


Peri-urban areas that are less developed offer an opportunity to implement combined adaptation and mitigation strategies. Senegal has sufficient solar potential and experiences 3,000 hours of sunlight every year or 5.4 kW/m2/day (Sarr and Thomas, 2005). Installation of solar energy equipment in peri-urban areas for thermal energy use provides a clean, reliable, and domestic energy source. This will reduce the use of traditional biomass fuels and preserve forests as a carbon sink, reducing emissions and eliminating the weak supply chain vulnerabilities. Since the solar energy transition is long term, it is also important to continue encouraging the use of LPG to eliminate biomass use altogether. Peri-urban populations already use mixed energy sources because of LPG shortages and high petroleum prices (Sarr et al., 2008). Solar is recommended to be the prime energy source with LPG as a back up in case of extended periods of cloud cover.

Policy Recommendations for Adaptation

First, to implement an integrated program involving the national electricity supplier, Senelec, ASER, the agency in charge of rural electrification, and local departements in Dakar Metropolitan area must increase the resiliency of existing and new energy transmission lines. Senelec needs to establish a standard guideline for hazard resilient transmission lines by consulting experts and climate data. Second, local departements need to map the most vulnerable energy infrastructure. ASER should be instrumental in helping the local government assess peri-urban areas that have not yet been electrified. Third, reduce prohibitive connection fees by allowing incremental payments (Sarr et al., 2008). An alternative is to offer discounted group connection rates so neighbors can still benefit from a more reliable connection at lower costs. Finally, the local departements need to initiate a public awareness campaign about the dangers of illegal connection lines and the opportunities to legalize connections at lower rates.

Policy Recommendations for Mitigation

The high cost of solar materials requires financial mechanisms for solar development in poor households. A former regulatory measure from 1993 granted tax exemption to solar materials but was rescinded in 2000 (Sarr and Thomas, 2005). Reestablishment of these tax exemptions along with subsidies and a national solar program under the direction of ASER will stimulate the implementation of interconnected solar communities in the least vulnerable peri-urban and rural areas. These areas would then be ready for central grid connection when development allows.


In addition, a revitalization of the 1987 government fuel subsidies on LPG would assist in eradicating traditional biomass fuel consumption. The subsidy ended in 2002, and although LPG use has continued to increase, it has done so at a slower rate (Schlag et al., 2008). Forests are an important carbon sink and preserving them will assist in mitigating carbon dioxide emissions. A report by ENDA recommends using this subsidy program to encourage LPG use, but implementing mechanisms such as access cards or subsidized LPG outlets in peri-urban areas to make sure the subsidies reach the poor (Sarr et al., 2008). This strategy is useful, but the subsidization of LPG should remain a smaller, more financially efficient program to allow resources to be concentrated on solar development.



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This article is a product of Professor Shagun Mehrotra’s Climate Change and Cities class. Views expressed are entirely those of the individual author.