On attracting investment and increasing efficiency in the energy sector
How attractive is Cote d’Ivoire to investors in the energy sector?
MARC ALBÉROLA: Cote d’Ivoire desires to be West Africa’s energy hub and has thus been investing in the energy sector for quite some time now. Indeed, given the number of build-operate-transfer agreements and public-private partnership projects successfully undertaken in the last 25 years, Cote d’Ivoire can be considered a regional leader in this regard. The government has been fostering energy investments through the mobilisation of new and traditional partners, by improving its international image, creating an attractive and secure environment for investment, and committing to opening its doors to new technologies, such as those propelled by the advent of renewable energies. Foreign investors have already expressed interest in participating in the development of new energy solutions, such as biomass and solar power. The government has also expressed its intention to develop additional hydroelectric projects.
Nevertheless, Cote d’Ivoire remains selective when it comes to renewable energy projects and has made its ambitions clear: it will pursue these projects only if they come at an attractive production cost. The underlying goal is to produce quality energy in sufficient quantity and at a competitive price to ensure high levels of economic growth, while also developing energy access throughout the country, including for the lowest income groups.
With regards to the local environment, the Investment Code remains attractive and the government continues to improve it further. Much remains to be done – including with regards to governance – but I believe we are moving in the right direction. Moreover, a sustainable economic and financial balance needs to be achieved within the energy sector, although actions are being taken to reach this goal. The recent tariff adjustment has started to yield results and will soon allow for more security on the financial front, eventually enabling the sector to automatically finance itself. Other mechanisms are also being put in place, notably new loan and guarantee instruments supported by the World Bank’s Private Sector Window, which will offer additional cover and security to investors in the energy sector while not straining public finances.
What does the liberalisation of the sector mean for investors?
ALBÉROLA: Today, there are already three independent gas producers and three independent power producers, with two more coming soon given the projects in development. Therefore, nearly 80% of the electricity sector is already liberalised. However, the off-grid offer and self-production will develop under the new electricity code as soon as the application texts are in force.
How can energy efficiency be increased?
ALBÉROLA: There are several ongoing projects that focus on increasing energy efficiency. In addition to the work being carried out to raise awareness of energy efficiency among households and businesses, the private utility company Compagnie Ivoirienne d'Electricité (CIE) recently created Smart Energy, a new subsidiary providing audits to companies seeking to ration their energy consumption, thus lowering and optimising their energy bill. Financing mechanisms have also been instituted to support those wanting to invest in energy efficiency by helping companies amortise the costs of audits.
It is worth mentioning that energy theft and fraud have fallen considerably in recent years. The billing ratio outside of Abidjan has reached 92% and in the capital city it is increasing each year. The goal is to achieve the same level in the capital. Since 2011 the volume of energy fraud has been reduced by more than 40%, and CIE has been upgrading the distribution network and rolling out pre-paid meters to increase efficiency in actions against fraud. There are, however, significant technical losses that can only be mitigated through additional investment in the networks. To that end, the government, with the help of international partners like the African Development Bank and the Chinese government, has several programmes to rehabilitate and reinforce the energy transport and distribution networks.