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West Africa Teams Up to Boost Power Production

  • James Butty

FILE - Electricity pylons snake across a hill in a Johannesburg suburb.

FILE - Electricity pylons snake across a hill in a Johannesburg suburb.

The African Development Bank said Africa’s power supply has worsened into a crisis. The bank said only one African in five has access to electricity, and that if the trend continues, fewer than 40 percent of African countries will reach universal access to electricity by 2050.

In 1999, the West African Power Pool was created to provide electricity to the sub-region at competitive and affordable prices. In 2012, four members of the power pool - Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea (CLSG) - signed a treaty establishing a special purpose company called TRANSCO CLSG to develop and bring low-cost electricity to the four West African countries.

Mohammed Sheriff, general manager of TRANSCO CLSG, said the project is expected to become operational in early 2017 with Ivory Coast providing 83 megawatts initially.

“This project will become a reality beginning in early 2017. Currently we are in our procurement process. Hopefully beginning May 2016 we will start awarding contracts to contractors. We are evaluating the prequalification of potential contractors. That process will be concluded hopefully by December to January,” Sheriff said.

He said the project is financed by the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the German government-owned development bank KfW and the European Investment Bank.

The proposed 1,349 kilometer system will start from Man in Ivory Coast. In Liberia it will reach Yekepa in Nimba County, Buchanan in Grand Bassa County and the capital, Monrovia. It will flow to Mano, Kenema, Bikongor, Bumbuna, Yiben, Kamakwie and Kassa “B” in Sierra Leone, and Linsan and Nzerekore in Guinea.

“We are not going to conclude the entire 1,349 kilometers before we can energize the lines. As we construct and finish a given lot, we will energize and make electricity available to the inhabitants of that area,” Sheriff said.

Sheriff said the institutional structure of the company is headed by a Board of Directors comprising the heads of the utilities in the four countries. It also has a steering committee consisting of the four ministers of energy of Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

TRANSCO CLSG does not produce electricity, said Sheriff. Rather, it only identifies sources of cheap electricity and transmits it to customers.

“What we do, we identify cheap electricity and transmit to those that are in need. On the aspects of the cost, we believe that once we conclude this line, the electricity that will be transmitted will be far cheaper. Our projection is basically saying that it will be 50 to 60 percent cheaper,” he said.

He said Ivory Coast, which said it has excess electricity, has promised to supply 83 megawatts initially. This will come from the mix of hydro generation as well as gas turbines.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s $7 billion Power Africa program plans to expand electricity across Africa. Sheriff said the West Africa Power Pool project is not part of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative.

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