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Senegal Seeks to Plug Power Gap with Gas-fired Plant

DAKAR (Reuters) – Senegal said it was close to a deal with Danish company Jacobsen elektro for a new gas-fired power plant that could help it end its chronic electricity shortages by next year.

The government of the West African state has been under increasing pressure after the most severe power cuts in decades triggered widespread protests in July and led religious leaders to ask residents to stop paying their power bills.

“We are close to signing an agreement with Jacobsen for an additional 80 megawatts,” Senegal’s energy minister, Samuel Sarr, told a news conference. “Our target to end the (power) deficit will be February 2011.”

He gave no further details on the deal. A spokesman at Jacobsen was not immediately available.

State electricity firm Senelec has a chronic shortfall of between 30 and 50 megawatts, but in recent weeks the shortfall reached a peak of 130 MW due to damage to the country’s generators from a batch of bad fuel, Sarr has said.

Local entrepreneurs, including mechanics, fish-mongers, and tailors, have complained the power cuts are making it virtually impossible to do business and hundreds of people have joined in a wave of protests in recent weeks.

Senegal’s influential Muslim clerics called on residents of the capital Dakar last month to refuse to pay their electricity bills until the service is back to normal.

Sarr said recently that Senegal, widely seen as a top candidate for solar power projects due to its abundant yera-round sunshine, was also lifting taxes on renewable sources of energy in an effort to diversify supply.

President Abdoulaye Wade has been criticised during his 10 years in office for failing to stem poverty and corruption, but has said he is confident voters will grant him a third term in a 2012 election.

Source: Reuters   Image: Reuters

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