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Yaoundé - 13 April 2024 -
Energy

Cameroon’s Minister of Energy asks for patience over power cuts until March 2024

Cameroon’s Minister of Energy asks for patience over power cuts until March 2024
  • Comments   -   Friday, 23 February 2024 16:20

(Business in Cameroon) - For over two months, households and businesses across seven of Cameroon's ten regions connected to the Southern Interconnected Grid (RIS) have been grappling with frequent and prolonged electricity blackouts. These disruptions are not expected to cease until the second half of March 2024. This was the main takeaway from a meeting held yesterday in Douala between Gaston Eloundou Essomba, the Minister of Water and Energy, key players in the country's electricity sector, and economic operators.

Despite various measures taken by the state, including utilizing the full capacity of all thermal power plants, optimizing hydroelectric power production, implementing electricity rationing while sparing households and sensitive areas, disconnecting energy-intensive companies from the network, and settling unpaid bills demanded by Eneo from public entities, power shortages persist. These efforts aimed to ensure the electricity company could pay its suppliers and maintain supply, explained Minister Eloundou Essomba.

The challenge largely stems from a 20 MW deficit in the RIS, exacerbated by hydrology problems due to climate change in the Ntem basin, fuel supply difficulties (costing CFA16.5 billion per month to operate all RIS's diesel power plants), and maintenance operations on plants, leading to a shortfall of over 180 MW.

The government has appealed for patience among economic operators, promising that expected rainfall in the Ntem basin by mid-March and the imminent commissioning of the first 60 MW unit of the Nachtigal dam will gradually restore normalcy to the RIS. However, the exact date for Nachtigal's first unit to become operational remains unspecified, despite previous announcements targeting February 24, 2024, after a missed deadline in December 2023. Now, its contribution to the RIS is anticipated in March 2024, coinciding with the end of the dry season affecting the Memvé’élé dam's output.

The Memvé’élé dam's production has drastically fallen from 200 MW in December 2023 to just 35 MW during the day due to the dry season, resulting in a nearly 170 MW deficit and subsequent rationing and blackouts in the RIS. To mitigate the impacts of fluctuating hydrology in the Ntem River, the President has instructed the acceleration of a dam-reservoir project on this river. This decision raises questions about the feasibility of constructing a CFA400 billion dam on a river with significantly lower flow rates compared to the Sanaga, which holds 75% of the country's hydroelectric potential.

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