27 June 2008 – Managers in Africa power sector have agreed to adopt common electricity standards and need to put a process into place to make this move a reality.
Common standards will increase the speed at which interconnections between countries can be set up, as currently power systems vary from country to country in terms of voltage and frequency, procurement models and equipment standards.
Generation and distribution standards also vary from country to country, despite the establishment of regional frameworks for power pools and interconnections.
A continent wide power pool is seen as a facilitator for the distribution of power from current untapped sources such as Inga in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to World Bank data, the DRC’s Inga hydro potential is 40GW. Plans are to eventually export this power, via Cameroon, to Nigeria in the North. Power will also be exported, via the Westcor Project, to Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Angola in the South.
Earlier in the year, the Common market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) announced a multi-million dollar project link its 19 member states. The programme will encourage cooperation in joint development and optimal utilisation of energy resources.
As part of this programme, a high voltage transmission line is being constructed between Nairobi in Kenya to Arusha in Tanzania.
Feasibility studies are also being carried out for an interconnection between Kenya and Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a production capacity of some 1 875MW.
According to Callixte Kambanda, executive secretary of the East African Power Pool (EAPP), there are plans to connect the EAPP to the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP), which will create opportunities "for the tapping of the abundant hydro-resources in DRC, Ethiopia, Zambia and Uganda."
Harmonisation is important across electricity operations, says Inugonum Tom, a manager of power system planning.
"Harmonization of these standards will help ensure technical and administrative compatibility. The metering for instance will ensure that utilities harmonize their revenue collection methods by replicating the success cases," he said.
In Southern, West and North Africa, power pools are active within their respective regions. The West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) has just recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Sinohydro, a Chinese company, for collaboration and development purposes.