Burkina Faso’s Yeleen programme

Nearly one million citizens of Burkina Faso will gain access to electricity for the first time thanks to the Yeleen programme – a public-private partnership supported by the AfDB, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), AFD, and the EU, and implemented by the state-owned util¬ity Société Nationale d’Electricité du Burkina (Sonabel). 

Yeleen – meaning ‘light’ in the Bambara lan­guage – has three components: (1) the devel­opment of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) plants plus the installation of battery stor­age, (2) expansion of the distribution network, and (3) construction of isolated mini-grids and solar systems to improve rural electrifica­tion. It is part of the AfDB’s Desert-to-Power (DtP) initiative, whose ultimate aim is to use the abundant solar resources in 11 Sahelian countries to connect 250 million people with electricity.

Burkina Faso has one of the poorest electricity access rates in Western Africa. The national average is 21% but, in rural areas, where 70% of the population lives, the rate is less than 1%, according to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook. Yeleen’s ultimate aim is to connect 50,000 households to solar-powered mini-grids and to provide a further 100,000 with stand-alone solar kits. This will provide electricity to about 945,000 people in rural areas of the coun­try – about 5% of the total population – who currently do not have access to power.

Whilst this still leaves a substantial amount to do for the full achievement of SDG7, it never­theless represents a significant step towards that goal.

The project’s total finance requirement is estimated at EUR 136.69 million. Part of this has come from the African Renewable Ener­gy Scale-up (ARE Scale-up) facility, which is co-financed by AFD and the European Com­mission. It paid for a feasibility study on the construction of four grid-connected solar photovoltaic plants, which are expected to be commissioned in 2024.

The largest of these plants, a 42 MW scheme north-west of the capital, Ouagadougou, includes the installation of an 8 MW/8 MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system, a first for West Africa and, according to an AFD statement, “the first stage in the construction of a grid capable of accommodating more intermittent solar energy production”.

The Ouaga North-West project also involves the extension of the transmission grid network with a new substation, a 90 kV line to the Kos­sodo substation in Ouagadougou.

The selection of contractors and start of work on a parallel project to reinforce the distribution grid is expected by the end of 2022. The plan is to construct networks in 66 localities, establishing 15,500 new electricity connections benefitting a population of about 110,000.

The last component of the Yeleen programme targets the construction of off-grid mini-grids in selected rural areas. Rural inhabitants in the Haut-Basins and Boucle de Mouhoun regions will, for the first time, have access to electric­ity through the deployment of mini-grids and solar home systems (SHSs). Construction work on these projects is underway, with com­mercial operations expected in 2024.

The partnership of Sonabel, AfDB, GCF and Team Europe is making a significant differ­ence both to Burkina Faso’s progress towards SDG7, and also to the promotion of sustain­able development in line with the global ener­gy transition. By integrating RE into its national energy mix, Yeleen programme projects will reduce Burkina Faso’s greenhouse gas