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Power generation woes in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana hit industry and neighbours

The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) recently announced intermittent power outages over an eight-day period to enable it to undertake construction work at the Pokuase Bulk Supply Point

A drop in electricity generation in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana has left households and businesses fuming as well as cutting power supplies to neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, officials said.

A prolonged dry season has reduced water levels in hydropower dams in both countries which in some cases could take months to resolve, hampering productivity, raising costs and hitting the economies of the world’s two biggest cocoa producers.

In Côte d’Ivoire, which exports power to six countries, the national power company faces a generation deficit of about 200 megawatts (MW), or nearly 10% of its 2,230MW capacity, the company’s director general, Ahmadou Bakayoko, told a news conference on Friday (7 May).

Officials told Reuters that most power companies in Côte d’Ivoire were producing at reduced capacity.

“Electricity production at the national level has been severely impacted since November 2020 by major unforeseen technical incidents on our electricity generation tools,” the energy minister, Thomas Camara, told the news conference.

Generation constraints

Camara said the national power utility, the Côte d’Ivoire Electricity Company (CIE), had been forced to use reserve water from its reservoirs to keep hydropower plants going but there was not enough rain to replenish dams.

Delays, caused by the coronavirus outbreak, in the expansion of the Azito thermal power plant in the commercial capital, Abidjan, have also hit capacity. The situation could return to normal around July, he said.

“We have drastically reduced exports to 60MW from 200MW,” Camara said.

A spokesman at Mali’s Ministry of Energy told Reuters that electricity imports from Côte d’Ivoire had fallen 30%, causing repeated outages and leading to a 100MW generation deficit.

Burkina Faso’s utility blamed its power shortages and cuts on generation constraints in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. In Ghana, which exports to Burkina Faso, the national utility is carrying out rolling outages until 17 May.

On Friday (7 May) the Ghanaian power regulator blamed the problem on several challenges, including work on transmission lines and a lack of rain that has left reservoirs depleted in the north of the country.

Power rationing

The outages in Côte d’Ivoire have led to complaints from the cocoa sector, which depends on a steady supply of power for its grinding machines. Two industry sources said most cocoa grinders were operating at between 25% and 50% of capacity.

The power cuts have led to a rush by businesses to secure diesel-powered generators, which are scarce and expensive. Those unable to afford them have sent workers home, the sources said.

“This has led to additional production costs for us because diesel generators cost three to four times more than conventional electricity,” said Louis Amédé, director general of Côte d’Ivoire’s business federation.

He said the national utility was rationing power to companies, supplying them for just 12 hours out of every 48.

Standstill

In Abidjan’s working-class district of Yopougon, several small businesses including sewing workshops, hairdressing salons and bakeries were unable to operate.

Luc Paré, a young fashion designer, lay on a bench in his shop, waiting for power to return so he could use his sewing machine.

“We can’t work,” he said. “Eid celebration is approaching. I have a lot of orders and I don’t know what to say to customers, who are very demanding.”

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Source
Reuters
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