Hydro, Gas Projects Aim to Bolster Cameroon’s Electricity Supply

Hydro, Gas Projects Aim to Bolster Cameroon’s Electricity Supply

A new hydroelectric dam in Cameroon is expected to begin producing power by the end of this year, with commercial operation beginning in 2024, according to an official with the African Development Bank (AfDB). Rokhaya Diop Diallo, who leads the project for AfDB, recently said work on the Nachtigal hydropower station is more than 80% complete.

The dam is among projects designed to increase power generation capacity in Cameroon, which like other African nations suffers from a lack of electricity production. The World Bank has said less than 70% of the country’s population of more than 27 million has access to electricity. Officials have said power outages are frequent across the country.

Hydropower supplies most of Cameroon’s electricity, with the rest provided by facilities burning natural gas and fuel oil. The country’s Ministry of Water and Energy on May 23 announced it had begun contract talks with a consortium including Sunon Asogli, a Ghana independent power producer (IPP), and China Energy, a Chinese state-owned mining and energy group, for construction of a 350-MW combined cycle gas-fired plant in Limbe.

Officials said the consortium would hold an 85% ownership stake in the gas-fired plant, with the government holding the remaining 15%. Officials in April said the new gas-fired plant could begin operating as soon as next year. Sunon Asogli, the Ghanaian IPP, is owned by Chinese power utility Shenzen Energy and the China Africa Development Fund. The group already operates a 560-MW gas-fired plant in Ghana.

420-MW Hydropower Project

Nachtigal is being developed as part of a public-private partnership. The 420-MW dam, which will be the largest hydro project in the African nation, is expected to supply more than 30% of Cameroon’s electricity once in operation. Construction of the dam, which covers about 4,440 acres, began in 2019.

Officials in 2020 look over a model of the Nachtigal dam hydropower installation, about a year after construction began on the project. Source: NHPC

The dam is being built on the Sanaga River. It is about 46 feet high and more than 4,500 feet wide. It will feature seven 60-MW Francis turbines from GE Renewable Energy.

Officials with Nachtigal Hydro Power Co. (NHPC) and the country’s Ministry of Water and Energy have said the hydropower station will be commissioned in phases as more work is completed. Government officials have said the power project represents an investment of about $1.3 billion.

Diallo recently told local media that “work on the main dam is nearing completion.” Diallo said recent equipment installations “bring the project partners closer to the objective of impounding the dam in July 2023, for commissioning of the first unit at the end of 2023.”

The NHPC is developing the Nachtigal dam. NHPC is a group created specifically for the power station’s construction. Électricité de France (EDF) is a 40% owner of NHPC, while the International Finance Corp. (IFC) holds a 20% stake. IFC is the private sector financing division of the World Bank Group.

The government of Cameroon has a 15% financial share of the project, as does the Africa50 investment platform. Stoa, an investment fund created the French Development Agency and French bank Caisse des dépôts et consignations, or CDC, holds the remaining 10%.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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