Regional Interconnectivity and Community Projects in the Pipeline for West Africa Despite Challenges

West Africa’s large-scale interconnectivity project development is being hampered by low generation.
Published: Thu 24 Jul 2014

Large-scale regional interconnectivity amongst West African countries is definitely on the cards for the region. This is good news for the area since cross level trade is currently at 10%. This figure is very low and well below the aims of the integration project, explains Ifey Ikeonu, Commissioner, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority, who spoke to Engerati at the Africa Energy Forum.

The power pool in West Africa is not fully operational as there is a deficit in generation and a lack of supporting infrastructure-a real chicken and egg scenario. “We are hoping to fast track the development of this grid interconnectivity. A legal and regulatory framework is being established to attract investment. We hope to have a proper power pool in place within the next few years,” explains Ikeonu.

Off-grid plans

There is also a great deal of focus on off-grid renewable generation development. ECOWAS has created a centre for renewable energy and energy efficiency development. Through this, the association wishes to encourage alternative sources of energy and energy conservation. “Even though there is a large deficit in capacity, there is still a lot of wastage. ECOWAS has created a policy to encourage every member state to ensure that 20% of total consumption comes from renewables by 2020. We have put a framework in place to ensure the development of renewable energy,” says Ikeonu.

By looking at both small and larger community projects, ECOWAS aims to fast track electric access.

Ikeonu believes that off-grid power development, especially from renewable energy sources, is a more economically viable solution for rural areas where grid extension and investment may prove to be difficult to attain.

Community ownership

These community projects will create a greater level of ownership amongst communities since they will have the opportunity to put projects together, as well as manage them in the long run.

“This is more sustainable for both the community and the government. That is, the community will finally have access to power as be able to manage it, and the government is relieved of providing grid power to these rural communities,” explains Ikeonu. She adds, “Not only do these energy projects provide the community with employment, they also reduce the level of non-payment and vandalism. It is a win-win situation.”