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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Light It Up

Memve’ele, Lom Pangar, Mekin the energy backbone With a hydropower potential second only to the DRC in Africa, Cameroon’s energy like almost everything else in the country is an impressive but hugely untapped resource. Only 14 percent of rural people in the country the World Bank says have access to energy. Power is costly and outages are a common occurrence in its towns and cities. It’s a cliché in Cameroon people glued to football games on television in homes and pubs applaud whenever electricity returns after a blackout. In fact, the national electricity grid runs principally from Douala to Yaounde and from Yaounde to Bafoussam, leaving most other areas in the dark or with diesel-generated electricity. Until now, the electricity that lights up parts of Cameroon has been supplied mainly by two hydroelectric stations on the Sanaga River, nearly 60% of it is gulped up by the aluminium smelter at Edea. In the 1980s, hydroelectric capacity was expanded by an additional complex on the Sanaga River (Song-Loulou) and a 72 MW generator (built with Chinese aid) on the Benoue River. Cameroon's power capacity was 810 MW in 2002, for which output for that year was 3.249 TWh, of which about 90% was from hydropower and the remainder from fossil fuels. Consumption amounted to 3.022 TWh in 2002.
Memve’ele, Lom Pangar and Mekin hold the future of the Cameroon Energy Plan. In two months President Paul Biya has laid the foundation stone of the first two waterpower projects, preparations are on course for the third. Memve’ele: 201 MW increase in electricity is located on the Ntem River in the South region of Cameroon. The 35m high dam worth 420 billion CFAF is the biggest of the three hydropower projects underway. Lom Pangar: 120 MW increase in electricity generation at two existing hydropower plants which will improve the reliability of power supply for up to five million Cameroonians and help to lower the cost of power. And a 30 MW power plant will be constructed to replace expensive thermal generation and provide reliable access to electricity in eastern Cameroon, including 2,400 newly connected households. Mekin: Located in the hometown of Cameroon President Paul Biya in the southern part of Cameroon, the hydropower project consists of a 12MW hydropower station, 40 miles of transmission cables. Total electricity generation capacity in Cameroon is now only 1.021 MW, 77 percent of which comes from hydropower, and the rest from relatively expensive and polluting thermal generation. Cameroon can generate up to 6.000MW of reliable all-season hydropower on the Sanaga River in the Medium term. Demand is double this figure, and the country is developing energy-thirsty projects to meet its development goals. As President Paul Biya said in the village of Nyabizan while laying the foundation stone of the Memve’ele dam on June 15, “Without energy there can be no real development. There can be no industry. Our agricultural and mineral raw materials cannot be processed. In short there can be no modern economy.” Three to five years from now Cameroon may finally be in business if these electricity projects are completed as planned.

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