By Patience Loum
The President of the ECOWAS Commission says that national power utilities continue to be under-utilized frustrating efforts to access financial markets required for maintenance and expansion projects. The challenges continue to exist despite implementing power sector reforms aimed at stimulating private sector participation and liberalization.
The statement was delivered by Sediko Douka, Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Digitalization, on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission at the 7th ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory forum. The theme of the forum held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference in Banjul on 9th November 2022 was “Energy Security in the ECOWAS Region Through Interdependence”.
“The regional demand is covered by only 60% and the tariffs are high around US$24 per kWh,” he said.
“Our energy mix includes 2/3 of the region’s electricity generation capacity [and it] runs on petroleum fuels and, as such, versus 1/3 for hydroelectricity. Furthermore, the national electricity markets are too small for any meaningful gain from economies of scale. Indeed, the regional electricity exchange is around 10% among ECOWAS Member States.”
Commissioner Douka explains that it is against this background that the region’s power utilities face enormous challenges in providing quality energy services to consumers and expanding coverage.
“To date, 13 countries are interconnected, [and] all preconditions for the operationalization of the Power Purchase and Sale through the West African Power Pool (WAPP) Information and Coordination Centre are met,” said Commissioner Doku.
This “means [that] by the beginning of next year, 2023, the regional electricity market will be fully started” and to maximise the benefits of this new market stakeholders to add value to this joint market to increase the cover of electricity, to reduce electricity tariffs through competition and to cover the full operating cost of the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Authority (EREA) through transmission fees and levies.
Up to 30% of Energy Should be from Natural Gas
Commissioner Doku notes that thirty per cent of the energy to be generated, according to the ECOWAS Master Plan for the Development of Power Generation and Transmission Infrastructure 2019-2033, should use natural gas as there is potential to harness this form of energy in the West African region.
He recalled that this is one of “the reason(s) that we established the West African Gas Pipeline Authority (WAGPA) since 2003 and, in 2015, our Statutory Bodies instructed us to carry out feasibility studies for the extension of the gas pipeline”.
“In this vein, the recent signatures of the Nigeria-Morocco and Nigeria-Niger-Algeria gas pipeline projects are welcome. These two main projects have, as their only objective, to increase energy generation and wide utilization of natural gas and Liquefied Petrol Gas (LPG) within our region. This will allow some of the Member States to benefit from their gas products (Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Niger, and Nigeria),” said Commissioner Doku.
More Efforts Needed to Meet Universal Electricity Access by 2030
The Gambia’s National Development Plan (2018-2021) on energy corresponds with the Universal Energy Access 2030 which seeks to improve the electricity supply to all citizens, says PURA Director General Yusupha M Jobe.
He noted that given the ambitious targets, commitment from regional regulators, governments, and other players is crucial to addressing the associated challenges of access and affordability of electricity. In his view, more efforts are needed to achieve the goal of Universal Energy Access by 2030.
One way he believes this can be achieved is to “encourage countries to enter into bilateral agreements to increase performance and responsiveness pending the arrival of the regional grid”.
“In a nutshell, it is significant that ERERA tries to revisit its ratified treaties and ensures that it harmonizes the implementation of cross-border transmission,” he said.