Chris Ford, managing director, Songas, Tanzania says that Songas has been in operation for 10 years. Originally Songas’s Ubungo power plant was supposed to provide shoulder load generation to support the baseload generation provided by the hydro power plants. “Instead, Tanesco has continually dispatched Songas and it truly has become an essential baseload generator for the country.”

Songas is Tanzania’s cheapest thermal power plant and provides reliable and economical electricity to Tanesco at less than US$6c/kWh. “Songas has also been instrumental in helping grow Tanzania’s energy sector and by using the country’s own natural gas resources, it is estimated that the Songas facilities have saved Tanzania more than US$3.0 billion by avoiding the high costs of importing liquid fuel,” Ford says.

He also says these are exciting times ahead for east Africa. “The market has grown significantly over the last 10 years and local demand for natural gas continues to grow.  We are particularly excited about opportunities for renewables and gas fired generation throughout east Africa.

“On the thermal side there has been a number of very large gas finds that will hopefully help secure the energy needs of the region.  On the renewable side these markets have excellent resources that are so far relatively untapped.

He believes one of the main challenges to getting power projects in Africa off the ground is that in some countries there is a continued focus on developing government owned projects rather than prioritising private sector led projects. “It is essential for governments to promote and grow the role of the private sector if sufficient capital is to be mobilised to meet the region’s needs. We also think there is a need for governments to improve the way in which they negotiate with the private sector on large infrastructure projects. These projects are often delivered under demanding timescales and can be very complex. It is therefore very important that countries focus on building capacity within their negotiating teams and getting good quality external advisors if projects are to be delivered successfully.

“The good news is that we have seen many good examples of countries doing just that; for example both Kenya and South Africa now have excellent track records of concluding private power projects.”

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