“Stakeholders must begin to look beyond national barriers in addressing the electricity sector challenges in the various countries of West Africa.”

Ifey IkeonuExclusive interview with Mrs Ifey Ikeonu, Council Member (Legal), ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority, Ghana. During the session on regulatory frameworks and policies at WAPIC in Lagos in November, Mrs Ikeonu will address delegates on “Improving regulatory performance through benchmarking”.

What projects that ECOWAS is involved in currently in the region are you most excited about?
ERERA is currently putting in place the building blocks for the off-take of the ECOWAS regional electricity market. We have so far finalized the Regional Market Rules which will soon be adopted by the ERERA Regulatory Council following the conclusion of the tariff methodology for the regional transmission tariffs. We are also working on the development of the contractual templates for cross-border electricity trading in the region. The adoption of all of these regulatory tools will signal the commencement of the first phase of the regional market and I am eager to see this in place as soon as possible.

Any success stories that will make a big difference in the lives of consumers that you can share?
ERERA is a regional regulator and as such our activities do not directly impact on consumers in the way the activities of a national regulator would. However, we are helping countries that do not currently have electricity regulators in place establish independent regulatory authorities as we believe that the presence of national regulators go a long way in improving quality of service to consumer and also helps in attracting investment into the sector to boost availability of supply. So far, we have worked with the Governments of Guinea and Sierra-Leone in this regard.

What are the biggest challenges to the power industry in the region?
Our biggest challenge in the region remains that of bridging the gap between electricity supply and demand. With average access rate to electricity in the region being about 30%, this is a very huge gap that requires a lot of proactive and innovative solutions if we are to meet the Sustainable Energy for All goal of providing universal access to electricity by the year 2030. The region is blessed with an abundance of natural and renewable resources and we must try to articulate the right strategies that will attract the required financial resources needed to put in place power infrastructure across board, leveraging on the resources within the region, to rapidly improve access to electricity.

What is your vision for this industry?
My vision for the electricity industry in West Africa is to have a sustainable and integrated electricity sector which is reliable, efficient and affordable and which will serve as the bedrock for economic and social development and growth of the region.

What will be your message at WAPIC?
My message would be to emphasize that stakeholders must begin to look beyond national barriers in addressing the electricity sector challenges in the various countries of West Africa. We must learn to rely on our joint resources be it natural, human or financial in tackling these challenges. Furthermore, we also need to pay a lot more attention on the governance of the sector as a sustainable power sector can only be built based on a clear, predictable and transparent regulatory framework.

How important is this event on the power calendar of the region?
WAPIC is important on the regional power calendar as it is an event that provides a platform for stakeholders in the region to come together to network and exchange ideas and experiences on pertinent issues specific to the electricity industry.