(Business in Cameroon) - The Minister of Water and Energy Gaston Eloundou Essomba (photo), on March 8, 2022, sent a letter to electric utility ENEO instructing the rationing of “energy-intensive” firms to allow supply for households that have been facing power outages for several weeks.
It seems there is " (...) a net peak deficit of 30MW in the RIS (Ed.note: South Interconnected Network which includes six regions out of 10 in the country) and 16 MW in the RIN (Ed.note: the North Interconnected Network which includes the three northern regions). This will result in the rationing of thousands of households. To avoid that outcome, you are advised to instruct your technical teams to proceed, starting from March 8, 2022, to the daily rationing of energy-intensive firms in the city of Douala and its surrounding…,” reads the letter addressed to Eric Mansuy, CEO of ENEO Cameroon.
According to a source close to the case, the 30MW peak deficit mentioned by the government official for the RIS does not correspond to the actual peak deficit. Instead, it is between 60 and 65MW daily because of the saturation of the transmission system, the drop in the generation capacity of the Memvé'élé dam since late February 2022 [because of the dry season the dam generates between 0 and 35 MW of energy while its installed capacity is 90MW], and the reduction in the generation capacities of the Kribi gas plant [about 126 MW instead of 216 MW] due to ongoing maintenance works.
In this first half of March 2022, the peak deficit has improved due to the gradual increase of generating capacity at the Memv'éle dam [it now generates 5 to 70 MW of energy] thanks to the start of the short rainy season, authorized sources explain. However, the situation is still concerning and firms are to pay the price.
With that letter, the Minister of Water and Energy “is simply reactivating the scheme implemented during the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) organized between January and February 2022 by Cameroon. I can even tell you that before this new ministerial instruction, we recently started rationing companies again to supply households. With the ministerial directive, this rationing will be scaled-up in the industrial zones of Bassa and Bonabéri, especially in the evening," confided a source close to the case.
According to Minister Eloundou Essomba, the situation is expected to return to normalcy by the end of the current month of March 2022. “The Minister instructed the rationing till the end of March because he expects rains to come by that time and stabilize the countries dams’ generation capacities. He also expects the works currently being carried out by the National Electricity Transmission Company (Sonatrel) on the Bekoko-Nkongsamba-Bafoussam line to end by that time. Because of those works, the West, Southwest, and Northwest regions are practically in the dark today (March 12, 2022)," says our source.
Indeed, we learn, Sonatrel, the state company in charge of managing the electricity transmission infrastructure, launched the construction of a 225 kV line (very high voltage) between Nkongsamba and Bafoussam (Ed.note: Bekoko-Nkongsamba is already 225 KV), next to the existing 90 kV line, whose capacity is now insufficient. "Those works, which were supposed to be carried out before 2019, in the framework of the AFCON, should lead to a relative stabilization of the network on the Bekoko-Nkongsamba-Bafoussam line since all of its sections will be 225 KV lines. Despite this, the structural problem of electricity transmission (Ed.note: aging and saturation) will not be fully resolved because the critical situation in the Logbaba (Douala) and Ngousso (Yaoundé) substations will persist," our source said.
To alleviate the saturation of the grid, the National Electricity Company (Sonatrel) recently acquired about twenty transformers, we learn from good sources. However, after unsuccessful attempts to install that equipment, an authorized source confided, Sonatrel sent them back to the Turkish supplier because of manufacturing defects that were finally detected. According to an authorized source, those transformers will be returned to Cameroon after about six months.
Brice R. Mbodiam