The availability of adequate and reliable electric power supplies is cardinal to the socio-economic development of Benin. The country’s limited generation capacity, coupled with its near-total dependence on imports of electricity (about 91%) and the fact that the exporting countries are also facing deficits in electricity supply are a threat to the country’s economy. There is, therefore, an urgent need to reduce the deficit in access to electricity in the country, meet the electricity supply shortage in the interconnected electricity grid and improve the reliability of electricity supply in Benin. This is fully in line with SDG 7.
Towards a Solution
The development objective of the project is to contribute towards improving the living conditions of the population and be a catalyst for the sustained economic growth of the country by contributing to meet the annual electricity demand growth rate of 10.4 per cent. The specific objectives of the project are to contribute towards meeting the electricity supply shortage in the interconnected electricity grid in the Republic of Benin and improve the reliability of electricity supply by producing 581 GWh of electricity through the installation and commissioning of a 120 MW power plant by 2018, contributing to the achievement of SDG 7.
The technology deployed for the project entails the construction of a dual – natural gas and HFO – power plant. This was chosen out of the other available options because it ensures fuel flexibility, as HFO can be used if natural gas, which is currently imported from Nigeria and Ghana through the West African Gas Pipeline, is not available. The power plant currently runs on gas 90% of the time, with the remaining 10% accounted for by HFO when the pressure from the West African Gas Pipeline is low or when it is under maintenance.
However, the supply of HFO is more certain despite its higher cost. To mitigate the dependency on foreign LNG, the Government of Benin recently signed an agreement with TOTAL, a leading LNG supplier, for the development of floating storage and regasification unit which will ensure the supply of the Maria Gleta plant with liquefied natural gas (LNG). The project is yet to be implemented.
As part of the project, the Société Béninnoise d’Energie Electrique (SBEE) has entered into a five-year operations and maintenance (O&M) contract with a reputable firm to maintain the plant and transfer technical know-how to SBEE. Two international experts and 55 local personnel have been recruited by the O&M firm. It is agreed that the personnel will be permanently transferred to SBEE upon the expiry of the O&M contract.
It was a good practice the need for O&M contractor at the completion of the project to build capacity fort the Executing agency and to improve the availability of the power plant and set benchmarks for the performance in the plant.
The first major factor that positively affected the project implementation and delivery of intended results was the use of international competitive bidding (ICB) process with the support of an independent consultant, resulting in a competitive offer from the contractor and significant financial savings of EUR 23.11 million and efficiency improvements, which also led to an addition of 7 MW to the original power plant capacity of 120 MW.
The GoB is also engaging gas suppliers in Nigeria and Ghana to ensure that it obtains the most competitive and favourable terms for the supply of gas to the power plant.
After one year of operation, the energy production from the power plant, as of August 2020, was 782.48 GWh against a benchmark of 581 GWh.