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Quality power supply improves businesses

February 4, 2015 With Mohamed Massaquoi

Public funding and supportive government policies have been a boon that has sparked innovation, technological advances, private sector investment and job creation in renewable energy, clean technology and energy efficiency across some African states.

In Sierra Leone, most businesses are collapsing as a result of erratic power supply. The national grid is seemingly not strong enough to supply big investments in the country, thus making it difficult for these businesses to fully operate in the country to transform raw materials into finished products.

Manycompaniesare unprepared for business disruptions caused by power blackouts, and are often unaware of the true costs and impact that such can have on their operations.

While the majority of power failures from national grids last only a few hours, some blackouts  can last days or even weeks, completely shutting down production at companies and critical infrastructures such as telecommunication networks, financial services, water supplies and hospitals.

Furthermore, it is likely that power blackouts will become more frequent owing to the lack of incentives to invest in aged national grid infrastructures. The move by the government of Sierra Leone to privatize the National Power Authority (NPA) is the best, according to some business entities this medium spoke to.

Many believe that their business will flourish and improve if and when government generated energy is reliable and sustainable.

“We are grateful for this move by the government, I am sure privatization is the best way to go in strengthening most government institutions. We are quite aware that government cannot effectively and efficiently manage a business for profit making,” Hassan Karim, a local manager in charge of a soap factory in the east of Freetown told Concord Times.

Improving the national grid will definitely help the country’s economic growth especially when economies across Africa are growing at a phenomenal rate resulting in an increased strain on power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. By adding large-scale, fast-track interim power, countries can continue to supply energy required to sustain economic growth while governments and state utilities work on bringing new generation capacity online.

In Abidjan for example, one of the world leaders in the provision of temporary power and temperature control services, the government has announced a three-year contract extension to its 200 MW gas-fired power project in Ivory Coast, with an option to extend this by a further two years. The Aggreko plant in the Vridi area of Abidjan provides critical power to Ivory Coast and surrounding countries interconnected to the Ivory Coast grid.

The facility was installed in 2010 with the first phase of the project producing 70 MW. This was later increased to 100 MW in 2011 and again increased in June 2013 to 200 MW. With a booming economy and GDP growth of around 9%, demand for energy has been increasing steadily in recent years. The Aggreko plant injects vital capacity into the local grid, helping keep essential infrastructure and services running, while also ensuring power supplies are maintained to both business and domestic users.

“We are pleased to be extending the Aggreko project which forms an important part of our program of strengthening the energy infrastructure across the country,” commented Amidou Traore, Director General of CI-Energies. “The 200 MW supplied from the Aggreko plant is an important component of our energy generation mix and helps us maintain supply to our customers while we develop our long-term infrastructure programmes.”

“Our project in Ivory Coast is a great example of the value Aggreko brings to its utility customers in Africa,” commented Christophe Jacquin, Managing Director, Aggreko North and West Africa. “Our solutions address shortages in power generation capacity, giving our customers the ability to maintain supply while they work to improve their systems.”

Aggreko maintains a strong presence in Ivory Coast and views the country as a vital platform in its West African operations. In addition to the Abidjan plant, Aggreko also runs its West African youth training initiative, The Aggreko Technical University in Ivory Coast.

The programme involves an intensive training syllabus incorporating advanced technical, engineering and project operations modules. Graduates have access to fast-track employment opportunities within technical and project operations positions in the Ivory Coast and other locations in Aggreko’s network of international power projects. The programme has so far seen 18 Ivorian and West African engineers trained with 14 of these going on to graduate and join Aggreko in various locations across Africa.