West Africa: ECOWAS to Start Cross-Border Sale of Electricity to Member States in 2020

Member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will commence cross-border sale and distribution of electricity among themselves in 2020, the regional body announced on Tuesday.

The Chairman, Regulatory Council of the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA), Honoré Bogler, disclosed this in Abuja.

Mr Bogler spoke at the ECOWAS Secretariat after the swearing in of the three-man regional regulatory council.

He said the challenge the region is facing was inadequate funding for the huge investments in infrastructure required in the region.

The chairman said his council would reposition the power sector of the sub-region.

"No country in the sub-region has the necessary funding to get electricity to every home in every country.

"That is why the Heads of States and government decided to create a market power pool so that all the potentialities we have in the region, in terms oil, gas, sun, wind - could be harnessed for the benefit of the people.

"The only limitation we fàce to harness these potentialities has been lacking of funds to get these resources working for the population," Mr Bogler said.

According to him, the Heads of State and government decided to pool all these potentialities so that the huge population of the sub-region would be an attraction for investors, once the investors realise that the electricity that would be produced would be used up by the huge population.

Mr Bogler assured that the people of the region would not be left at the mercy of the operators, particularly on the issue of tariffs, which he said would be a priority of the regulatory council.

The mandate of ERERA, he sàid, is to provide the link between all the interest groups, supervise the effective functioning of the electricity market, by arbitrating on any dispute arising from the arrangement between the operators.

"The aim is to have a power market in the region, working with commercial rules and regulations that will be sustainable.

"We think people will have the best price of electricity if we use the regional resources that are cheaper to feed our network. ERERA will monitor and supervise all these to get it running in an organized manner.

"By 2020, the region will be ready for the transmission of power from one country to the other.

"⁴Once that is achieved, we will go into the phase of the plan whereby all the countries in the region would have the opportunity of buying electricity from the market through the regional lines," he said.

By implication, he said with the entering of the real commercial phase of the project, all interest groups must know there is a regional regulator of the trans-border electricity trade.

Consequently, he said the various groups must realize there is somebody that will work for the interest of everyone; one that will not act in favour of anyone.

"If we want electricity for all, we must invest in the sector. But, we all know that all the countries of the sub-region are going through electricity supply challenges.

"This means that we do not have enough electricity produced in the region. We do not also have the lines for transmission from one country to the other over the borders, even if we generate enough electricity."

On the huge investments required to attract investors, he said the council was optimistic to exploit the advantages of the big market in the region due to the large population since the investors want returns on their investments.

A member of the regulatory council, Haliru Dikko, said he was also optimistic about the scheme, with the regional political leaders determined to provide an enabling environment for would-be investors and their investments.

Mr Dikko said the political will has been demonstrated by the leaders of all the West African countries by way of needed guarantees for investors' investments to make them safe and secured.

"The investors who are coming also need the assurance that they would be given appropriate rights of what is expected of them to stay.

"It was for this reason that the West African sub-regional market was able to attract investments from the World Bank, African Development Bank and other multilateral and multi-national investing public," he said.

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