Growing demand for improved infrastructure services delivery at a regional level is acting as a boost for cross-border initiatives. James Gavin reports on the World Bank's moves to support the development of the West Africa Power Pool.
The World Bank estimates the economic benefits of a regional power market in West Africa at $5bn to $8bn a year. To date, it has dedicated $1.5bn in International Development Association (IDA) funding to support the regional agenda in the electricity sector of West Africa, with $1.1bn provided to the West African Power Pool (WAPP) for regional transmission projects and $375m for regional electrification access projects provided to other regional entities.
Improving electricity access and system reliability through the development of a regional energy market in West Africa requires close collaboration between neighbouring countries. The WAPP is made up of 14 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, with 27 national electricity utilities working towards a more efficient regional power market.
The bank acknowledges that access to energy remains a challenge in West Africa, where many countries are dependent on expensive fossil fuels and the main source of electricity generation is often located far away from its consumers.
"The creation of a regional power market will improve overall reliability and make electricity more affordable, simply by allowing all countries to benefit from lower cost resources available in the region," said Charles Cormier, Practice Manager in the Energy and Extractives Global Practice at the World Bank.
"It will make power generation more sustainable by displacing baseload, oil-fired power generation and emergency diesel with cleaner sources of electricity, such as natural gas, solar, wind and hydropower."
The power system will also become more resilient by balancing unexpected energy shortages. By expanding transmission networks, a regional transmission system will allow countries to expand the access to electricity in remote areas. The sizeable market created by integrating these 14 countries will be more attractive to private-sector investment in power generation and allow the countries to benefit from cheaper electricity thanks to economies of scale.
"The WAPP has made a great deal of progress and now finds itself at a critical juncture where it needs to focus on building trust...