Renewable Energy Potential in Sao Tome and Principe


Total installed electricity capacity (2008): 14 MW

  • Petroleum Products: 57.1%
  • Hydroelectric: 42.9%

Total primary energy supply (2008): 71.4 ktoe

  • Oil and Oil Products: 62%
  • Biomass: 37%
  • Hydroelectric: 1%

Biomass (firewood and charcoal) is used heavily for cooking purposes. Electricity generation in 2008 was 33.7 GWh, with a consumption per-capita in the same year of 210 kWh.


Oil consumption and imports in 2009 were around 1,000 barrels a day. There is no oil refinery. As a result, all petroleum products including jet fuel, gasoline and kerosene have to be imported. The fuel comes mostly from an Angolan supplier that has an effective monopoly. Spending on fuel imports amounted to US$ 16 million in 2009, or 15.4% of the total imports to the country. There are no indigenous sources of oil, coal, natural gas or hydropower. The mid-2000s saw a boom in offshore exploration in the joint development zone between Nigeria and the country. These efforts have met with little success.


Electricity supply in STP is unreliable and coverage extends to only about half the population, so many households rely on candlelight and kerosene lighting, and biomass for cooking.

The main distribution system covers the north-west part of São Tomé Island (where the capital city is). Hence, about 80,000 people (out of a total population of about 150,000) are supplied with electricity from EMAE, the national utility, on São Tomé e Príncipe. There is also a privately owned micro-hydro system on the Augustino Neto plantation. EMAE also operates an isolated diesel system on Principe. [4]

Although 60% of households have access to electricity, only 48% use electricity for lighting, while 49% uses kerosene lamps. Close to 85% of households use firewood or coal for cooking.


São Tomé e Príncipe’s energy sector faces substantial challenges. Firstly, a shortfall in capacity and insufficient resources to pay for fuel translate into frequent blackouts, which disrupt the economy. Secondly, as is the case in many other island economies, energy production is very costly.  Thirdly, technical and commercial inefficiencies exacerbate financial losses. Finally, the tariff structure is not cost reflective.

Generation costs are high, as most of EMAE’s generation is from diesel-fired plants and the cost of imported fuel is high. Power transmission is subject to illegal tapping. So far, government efforts to increase generating capacity have proved unsuccessful, and a generator remains a necessity for businesses, diplomatic missions and tourism sites.

Demand has risen to 15MW and will continue to rise with economic growth. The frequency of electricity cuts, ranging from a couple of hours in the city centre to a couple of weeks in more remote rural areas, rose sharply in 2009 after a major fire destroyed two generators at EMAE. A short term solution uses the capacity from the power station at Bobo-Forro. Chinese Taipei has provided funds to build two new generators in Santo Amaro. The generators have been provided by Hyundai Heavy Industries, and installation began in April 2010. The total capacity of the systems is 8.7 MW. Portuguese group Soares da Costa is building a new generator to produce 6 MW at Bobo-Forro.



With an average daily insolation of 5.2 kWh/m2, the country is well-placed to utilise solar energy. However, little progress has been made, short of pilot projects in public buildings, such as schools.


Meteorological measurements in the mid-1990s indicated that the country does not have significant wind potential, but that topographical conditions mean the potential for the technology cannot be ruled out. A 2 MW demonstration project was launched in 2007 in the district of Caue, 90 kilometers from Sao Tome city, with technical support from German firms.


An estimated 30 GWh/year are available from biomass utilisation. Sustainable use of forestry resources is a paramount concern, given the degree of reliance on traditional biomass fuels for basic energy needs.


No study has currently been conducted as to the geothermal potential of the country. However, the islands’ geographical location, on the Cameroon volcanic mountain line, indicates the possibility of a geothermal resource.


Studies conducted by EMAE conclude that the country has potential for additional hydro power generation, but that more analysis needs to be done. Preliminary feasibility studies for 14 sites suggest investment costs ranging from US$3,000 to US$10,000 per installed kW. As of 2009, approximately 4 MW of hydropower capacity were under construction in the country, with a further 26 MW in the planning stage.


There is a lack of government or utility-driven programs for energy efficiency and demand side management. Energy consumption per capita stood at 0.278 toe in 2007. Technical efficiency in the power generation system is low, with high distribution losses. In conjunction with high commercial losses through inadequate billing procedures, the potential for efficiency in the electricity sector is high. Inefficient biomass fuels, or in some cases coal, are commonly used in households for fulfilling domestic energy needs. Some limited activities are taking place to improve supply-side efficiency, for example indirectly through a UNEP CFC/ODS reduction program for refrigeration in the islands.

Excerpt from Country Energy Profile of Sao Tome and Principe on