20 May 2013

Benin-Nigeria Power Interconnection Project - Sharing Energy in West Africa

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The Electricity Authority of Benin-Nigerian Electric Power Authority power interconnection project, jointly financed by the African Development Bank, the West African Development Bank, and the Economic Community of West African States, is one of the sparkling flagship projects for regional integration and cooperation in West Africa.

Financed under the West Africa Power Pool program, the project connects Benin's power grid (CEB) to that of Nigeria (NEPA). Since its completion in 2007, like a beacon, the project has broken dawn, lighting up vast areas of rural communities that were once in economic darkness. Today, one compelling transformation story is that electricity is now available in such rural communities as Alaari, Ihunbo, Idi-Ota, Ajilete, Oja-Erin, Sabo Ago Ilobi, Awuko Alongbon and Owode, to name a few.

Togo and Benin now readily have alternative sources of power supply available to meet any shortfall in their electricity imports from Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire while voltage on the CEB transmission network has been improved. Power outages are said to have been reduced to the barest minimum in the two countries, even during drought periods.

This has substantially enhanced the year-round economic and social activities of their populations. Interconnecting the grids of Benin, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Nigeria is one great achievements of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and is in line with the energy objectives of its member countries, who are keen to ensure the reliability of the electricity supply as well as the optimization of production costs within the sub-region.

For Nigeria, where electric power is one of the main and foremost development priorities, the CEB-NEPA Power Interconnection Project has brought something new to the table: the commissioning of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

The African Development Bank financed, exclusively, the Nigerian side of the project while the West African Development Bank and ECOWAS financed components in the other countries. Investment in power has not been easy in Nigeria, but with this project the Bank offers new energy transmission success. In fact, the AfDB is the only development agency that has undertaken a transmission project in Nigeria and, based on the importance of the Nigeria-Benin Power Interconnection Project, intends to finance similar projects in the country.

During a visit to the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in Ikeja, the success of the CEB-NEPA Power Interconnection Project was clear. According to the Area Control Supervisor, Philip Ogbonna, and the Project Electrical Engineer, Akintola Mojeed, of the three transmission sites, the Ikeja main Transmission site has a the capacity of 450 megawatts and is the largest transmission site in Africa, with 330 KV.

The TCN currently transmits 200 megawatts of power across to Sakete in Benin Republic on a 15.75-kilometre line from Lagos, up from 80 megawatts when the project was commissioned in 2007. The project itself involves the construction of a 70-km long 330 KV overhead transmission line from Ikeja West substation, just outside Lagos, to Sakete in Benin Republic.

The TCN officers expressed satisfaction that with the AfDB project, which is equipped with five major transformers each with 150 KV, there have so far been no major problems with its external distribution of power to Benin and Togo. The transmission of 200 megawatts from Nigeria has benefitted Benin Republic immensely as there is no power rationing nor outages there, they said.

They explained that this is done notwithstanding Nigeria's own power shortages as the country generates barely some 4,000 megawatts of power compared to an estimated national demand of 10,000-12,000 megawatts, a situation which has resulted in frequent and unpredictable load-shedding and a heavy reliance on generators by consumers.

According to them, TCN distribution is in accordance with an ECOWAS agreement in the context of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) under which any West African country that generates excess power at a given time can transmit the excess to countries with less energy at the time.

They said the WAPP concept was an excellent cooperation initiative, noting that Nigeria's energy concerns are not with transmission but with generation. Currently, over 90 per cent of industrial and a significant number of residential consumers in the country own generators. The CEB-NEPA Power Interconnection is perhaps a necessary first step in power generation and pooling efforts by ECOWAS in West Africa.

The TCN officers, however, called on the country authorities and the African Development Bank to consider enhancing coordination efforts with effective communication systems as well as back-up lines to support routine switch-overs when there are glitches or power outages in different countries.

In conclusion, the CEB-NEPA Transmission Project has created employment opportunities and improved the socio-economic standing in all interconnected countries including Nigeria, Benin and Togo. It has promoted the development of other infrastructure including health centres, primary schools, secondary schools, post offices, pipe-borne water, maternity centres and police stations in rural and semi-urban environments.

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