Interview: Eric Amoussouga
In terms of increasing electricity access, what challenges does Côte d’Ivoire need to overcome?
ERIC AMOUSSOUGA: Ensuring every household has access to electricity is an essential right and one of the main objectives of all countries in the subregion. Côte d’Ivoire aims to connect all villages with more than 500 inhabitants by the end of 2020. The implementation of a comprehensive energy policy will enable the country to reach its electrification target of 80% by the end of 2020, up from 55% in 2011. Although Côte d’Ivoire has an excellent system to implement projects to improve electricity access, challenges remain. The cost of electricity access remains high in some rural areas, despite the progress made to address this issue, such as the adoption of specific subsidies.
While Côte d’Ivoire currently has enough generation capacity, it will probably face some challenges concerning production planning, and the implementation of a regulatory framework conducive to the growth of independent power producers and renewable integration.
There are also issues with developing transmission infrastructure, which requires planning and an extensive financing process, usually involving foreign investment. Moreover, environmental impact assessments can result in projects taking longer to be implemented.
In terms of energy distribution, investments are often subject to trade-offs due to limited resources and high demand to extend supply to remote areas. Differences in population density mean that there is a mixture of distribution solutions, with some areas connected to the grid and others using decentralised systems.
What advantages do mini-grids and decentralised electricity production offer to the sector?
AMOUSSOUGA: Mini-grids help accelerate the electrification of areas that are not connected to the main grid. They can be used to meet specific needs where a traditional connection would require a large amount of investment and implementation time. However, their implementation requires significant expertise and can be a technological challenge. Furthermore, mini-grids are limited in terms of power, and require storage technologies that can impact on the cost. Nevertheless, they can be a useful solution to expand electrification in remote areas with a limited need for power.
How can multinationals support innovative startups seeking to address local issues?
AMOUSSOUGA: Multinational companies can provide real added value in terms of skills transfer by establishing partnerships with universities and training centres to provide opportunities for young people to develop project-management and innovation skills. Start-ups are then able to draw on technical and organisational skills, which can be adapted to the local market.
In what ways can investment in research and development (R&D) in the energy sector be encouraged?
AMOUSSOUGA: R&D projects must address real issues and have commercial viability to capture investors’ interest. Establishing partnerships between universities, start-ups and multinationals is one option, if they serve concrete projects. The need to develop relevant solutions at competitive costs must remain the driving force behind research projects. This requires both a technical and financial approach as well as the creation of a favourable environment by public authorities.
To what extent is the country’s energy mix undergoing a transformation?
AMOUSSOUGA: Côte d’Ivoire has effectively implemented a policy to gradually increase the role of renewables. This strategy is reflected in major investments in hydroelectric power stations, such as the Soubré and Buyo dams, which constitute an important part of the energy mix. Emphasis has also been placed on the development of biomass and solar power projects, which are also accelerating the sector’s transformation.