A drop in electricity generation in Ivory Coast and Ghana has left households and businesses fuming as well as cutting power supplies to neighbouring West African countries Mali and Burkina Faso, officials said.
A prolonged dry season has reduced water levels at hydropower dams in both countries that in some cases could take months to resolve, hampering productivity, raising costs and hitting the economies of the world’s biggest cocoa producers.
In Ivory Coast, which exports power to six countries, the national power company faces a generation deficit of about 200 megawatts (MW), or nearly 10% of its 2,230 MW capacity, director general Ahmadou Bakayoko told a news conference on Friday.
Officials told Reuters that most power companies in the country were producing at reduced capacity.
“Electricity production at the national level has been severely impacted since November 2020 by major unforeseen technical incidents on our electricity generation tools,” Energy Minister Thomas Camera told the same news conference.
Camara said the national power utility, Ivory Coast Electricity Company (CIE), had been forced to use reserve water from its reservoirs to keep hydropower plants going but there was not enough rain to replenish dams. Delays in the expansion of the Azito thermal power plant in the main city Abidjan due to the coronavirus pandemic have also hit capacity.
The situation could return to normal around July, he said.
“We have drastically reduced exports to 60 MW from 200 MW,” Camara said.
A spokesman at Mali’s energy ministry told Reuters that electricity imports from Ivory Coast had fallen 30%, causing repeated outages and leading to a 100 MW generation deficit.
Burkina Faso’s utility blamed its power shortages and cuts on generation constraints in Ghana and Ivory Coast.
In Ghana, which exports to Burkina Faso, the national utility is carrying out rolling outages until May 17.
The power regulator on Friday blamed the problem on several issues including work on transmission lines and a lack of rain that has left reservoirs depleted in the north of the country.
The outages in Ivory Coast have led to complaints from the cocoa sector, which depends on a steady power supply for its grinding machines. Two industry sources said most cocoa grinders were operating at between 25% and 50% of capacity.
The power cuts have led to a rush by businesses to secure diesel-powered generators which are scarce and expensive. Those unable to afford them have sent workers home, the sources said.
“This has led to additional production costs for us because diesel generators cost three to four times more than conventional electricity,” said Louis Amede, director general of Ivory Coast’s business federation.
He said the national utility was rationing power to companies, supplying them for just 12 hours out of every 48.
In Abidjan’s working-class district of Yopougon, several small businesses including sewing workshops, hairdressing salons and bakeries were unable to operate.
Luc Pare, a young fashion designer, lay on a bench in his shop, waiting for power to return so he could use his sewing machine.
“We can’t work. Eid celebration is approaching. I have a lot of orders and I don’t know what to say to customers who are very demanding.”