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Pan-African electrical interconnection and power trade

Conference: East African Power Industry Convention
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Presenter: Fatima Moustafa
Abstract: Presented by Fatima Moustafa at East African Power Industry Convention

Pan-African Electric Interconnection
The continent of Africa is endowed with immense natural and energy resources that include oil, natural gas, hydro, coal, uranium and renewable. Unfortunately most of these resources have not yet been adequately explored. The energy situation in Africa is particularly serious; the majority of the population does not have access to them. This is mainly due to the required high investments or lack of suitable domestic markets on a national basis.

Energy is the backbone of industrial development. It provides the needs for social and economical plans for industry, agriculture, irrigation, residential and commercial uses. Without this access, Africans are severely hampered in efforts to grow beyond a subsistence existence and escape poverty.

The diversity of the primary resources of energy in Africa (Oil and Gas are available in the north; hydro resources are available in the center, while coal is available in the south) encourages the creation of a Pan-African electric interconnection network across the continent for the optimization and the use of hydropower resources, in conjunction with thermal generation.

The Continent of Africa covers a large area of about 30 Million square Kilo meters. It extends from 17 degrees longitudinal west of Greenwich at Senegal to the 51 Degree Longitudinal east of Greenwich at Somalia, thus covering four time zones. It extends from 35 degrees latitude south of the equator in South Africa to 37 degrees north of the equator at Tunisia. This pattern of location within four time zones and the occurrence at the same months of the year of winter in the north and summer in the south and vice versa, lead to diversified daily and monthly maximum demands of energy in the different countries of the continent. Whenever the electric power systems in Africa are interconnected, the resulting Pan- African system would enjoy the advantage of exchanging the winter season peak and summer season peak across the electricity networks and from the diversity of the daily peak demands. Such situation provides good economic basis for the perspective power system interconnection and power trade.

Electrical interconnection between countries is a vital subject that attracted the worlds’ interest in the last two decades. It is integration between the adjacent electrical systems, which combine electrical generating, transmission and control facilities in these countries to exchange power, export and import through bilateral agreements between these countries. Such integration leads to tremendous economical, technical and environmental Benefits. Growing electricity demand throughout Africa has already helped to foster the interconnection of electricity grids in some areas on the continent. However, there is no unified master plan behind these efforts. 

Electrical Energy trade already takes place between the countries of Africa across the international borders e.g Northern Africa, Southern Africa Power Pool, the West Africa Power Pool and interconnection between some countries in Central Africa

Eastern Nile Power Trade in the context of Pan-African electric interconnection.
Countries in the Nile Basin are aware of the potential benefits from trading power. While current levels of power trade among Basin countries are low, many of them are considering ways to increase the levels of this trade and are looking for suitable investments to realize this objective.

Under the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (ENSAP) realizing that Cheap and reliable supply of electricity is a critical input for economic growth, employment generation and poverty alleviation, two projects of the Integrated Development Eastern Nile Projects (IDEN) are related to electrical interconnection:

  1. Ethiopia-Sudan Interconnection Project;
    The main objective of the Project is to increase reliability of supply in the two countries by taking advantage of the hydro-thermal complementarities and the variability of the peak demand in the two systems.
  2. Eastern Nile Power Trade Investment Program Study.
    The objective of the Study is to promote regional power trade through creation of an enabling environment and coordinated planning and development of power generation and transmission interconnection projects.

Integration of power systems through coordinated planning of power generation and transmission interconnection projects will bring several advantages to the EN countries. It allows the pooling of reserve capacity thereby reducing the investment cost of additional power plants. It will allow flourishing of electricity trade among the EN countries. Integration will permit better use of flexible hydropower generation during peak time and thermal power plants during off-peak time. Integration will also permit supply from thermal based system to hydro based system should there be drought in a particular year.

The Paper will present:

  • Description of the above mentioned projects in context of the
  • Economic, technical and Environmental benefits of the projects
  • Advantages of Pan-African Interconnection
  • Challenges facing the implementation