20 February 2013 – In its 2013 brief on the Gabonese energy sector the USA’s energy information administration (EIA) says that country has the potential to harness 6,000 MW of hydroelectricity. Several hydropower plants have been proposed, but progress has been slow, with the exception of the 160MW Poubara hydroelectric dam that is expected to come online this year. However, tapping into this potential could leave the country vulnerable to unfavourable weather patterns, as low rainfall has triggered power blackouts in the past.

Société d’Electricité et d’Eaux du Gabon (SEEG), Gabon’s national utility company, owns and runs Gabon’s electricity sector. The French Company Vivendi currently owns 51% of SEEG and is responsible for electricity generation and distribution in Gabon. Conventional thermal power (1.0 billion kWh) and hydroelectricity (0.8 billion kWh) account for nearly all of the country’s net generation, with biomass and waste accounting for a small amount (0.007 kWh), according to the latest EIA estimates in 2010.

Gabon’s urban areas consume a majority of the power generated, while electricity access in rural areas remains low. As of 2009, Gabon’s countrywide electrification rate was 36.7%, and 900,000 people were without electricity, according to the latest figures from the International Energy Agency.

Gabon recently launched a plan to expand its hydroelectricity sector by constructing six power plants and extending transmission lines to satisfy rising demand from industrial consumers, according to IHS Global Insight. The first project anticipated to come online in early 2013 is the 160MW Poubara hydroelectric dam on the Ogooué River, which is being built by China’s Sinohydro. The hydro plant is expected to supply power to regional manganese mining sites and for exports to Congo (Brazzaville). Other hydroelectricity projects that are planned, but development is moving at a slower pace, include the 36MW FE2 project on the Okano River, the 56MW Impératrice project on the Ngounie River, and the 410MW Booué project on the Ouué River. The country also plans to bring online the 70MW gas-fired Alenakiri power plant in Libreville sometime in 2013, which is being constructed by the Israeli company Telemenia.