Gabon signs hydropower deal in step towards emissions target

LIBREVILLE, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Gabon and Paris-based asset manager Meridiam signed a $210 million deal on Tuesday to build a hydroelectric dam as part of the central African nation’s international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Once operational in 2023, the Kinguele Aval project on the Mbei River is slated to have production capacity of around 205 gigawatt hours per year, or 13% of the current consumption of the capital Libreville, 100 kilometres to the west.

Gabon, whose president Ali Bongo has sought to cast himself as an environmental crusader, is developing its hydroelectric sector in a drive to cut emissions by at least 50% by 2025 under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Tuesday’s signing represents “a decisive step towards the realisation of all other projects in this strategic sector”, Energy Minister Alain Claude Bilie By Nze said at the ceremony in Libreville.

The plant will save over 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year, Meridiam said last year, which equates to around 3% of Gabon’s annual emissions based on 2016 figures from the World Bank.

Construction will start towards the end of 2020, with 75% of the 116 billion CFA franc ($210.7 million) financing coming from development banks including the International Finance Corporation and the African Development Bank.

Meridiam owns 60% of the project, while the rest is held by Gabon’s sovereign wealth fund.

$1 = 550.4800 CFA francs Reporting by Gerauds Wilfried Obangome; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Bate Felix and Jan Harvey