Five countries approve West Africa grid study

Five state power companies have approved an initial feasibility study for a 330-kilovolt transmission interconnection in a West Africa region of rich hydropower potential.

Niger state television said December 11 that electricity companies from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo approved studying the project, which has an estimated cost of 200 billion Central French Africa francs (US$448 million),

The utilities already have approval of their governments to seek financing for the project, which will allow the transmission of more than 500 MW along 800 kilometers of power lines in a region spanning the Volta and Niger river basins.

“The project is profitable, and I’m sure donors will be very interested in completing it,” Deputy Manager Foukori Ibrahim of Niger state power company NIGELEC, told state television.

Lack of reliable electricity is often cited by investors as one of the main obstacles to business in West Africa, with blackouts a regular occurrence in most of the region’s cities.

Since 1972, Niger has been able to import electricity via a high-tension power cable from Nigeria, which now provides 90 percent of the country’s electricity needs. Only 20 percent of the country has electricity supply.

Earlier this month, officials of the Ghana government and the World Bank signed a US$46.2 million loan agreement to finance additional Volta River hydro project rehabilitation and transmission system work. (HNN 12/10/07) That work is to implement the second phase of the Coastal Transmission Backbone project supporting the West Africa Power Pool.

In April, the African Development Bank approved loans to Ghana and Benin to finance a transmission system interconnection project among Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Ghana for trading of electricity, which will improve reliability of supply, reduce production costs, and, during drought, help offset shortfall in output of hydropower stations in individual countries. (HNN 4/6/07)

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