Following the return of political stability to Côte d'Ivoire from 2012 after an extended period of political unrest, which had a detrimental effect on energy infrastructure and acted as a deterrent to international private investors, the Ivorian government has set out strategic plans to revitalise Côte d'Ivoire's power sector, including its goal to double power production capacity by 2020, in order to meet rising demand as the economy strengthens. In this context a new Electricity Code was enacted in 20141.

Electricity production in Côte d'Ivoire is a dual system, with approximately 60% of the country's electricity produced by thermal power stations and approximately 40% produced by hydropower plants. CIPREL, Azito and Aggreko are the key independent power producers (IPPs) in Côte d'Ivoire. CIPREL, located in the Vridi industrial zone of Abidjan, is currently the largest of the country's thermal power stations, accounting for approximately two-thirds of non-hydropower production.

Developments in recent years reflect the government's strategic plan to position Côte d'Ivoire as a key player in the West Africa Power Pool, including the construction of a new hydropower plant at Soubre and the expansion of the CIPREL and Azito power plants.

Côte d'Ivoire as a forerunner in privatisation of the power industry

Côte d'Ivoire's strategy in the power sector represents an interesting case study from as early as the 1990s. The country was one of the first of the sub-Saharan nations to consider the benefits of turning to the private sector to boost the capacity of its power generation. In 1990 the government granted a concession to the private company, Compagnie Ivoirienne d'Electricité (CIE), in respect of the transport, distribution, importation and exportation of electricity.

During the course of the 1990s the Côte d'Ivoire power sector experienced further transition from the public to the private sector. In 1994 the government concluded a contract with CIPREL, an IPP owned by the French Eranove group, for the construction, operation and transfer of ownership of a 200MW thermal power plant. In September 1997 a contract was concluded with CINERGY for the development of a 300MW natural gas-fired power plant in Azito. CIE took on the role as off-taker of the electricity produced by the IPPs pursuant to power purchase agreements.

Efforts have also been made since the 1990s to systematise the power sector in Côte d'Ivoire, as demonstrated by the creation of a national regulatory authority, ANARE, in 1998, responsible for the compliance of operators with legislation, arbitrating disputes and ensuring the protection of consumer interests. In 2010 the government undertook further structural reform, creating a new national electricity company, CI-ENERGIES, responsible for the management of the country's electricity supply and the management of projects on behalf of the State as the grantor of concession agreements.

The new Electricity Code 2014: What is the impact?

The introduction of the new Electricity Code, Law 2014-132 of 24 March 2014, represents a key step in the government's strategy to increase Côte d'Ivoire's power capacity and to provide an attractive investment environment for IPPs.

The new Electricity Code serves to further liberalise the power sector in Côte d'Ivoire, by means of ending the monopoly previously held by the State in respect of transport, distribution, commercialisation, import and export activities. Such activities may now be undertaken by one or more private operators pursuant to a convention agreement concluded with the State. However, the partnership between the State and CIE was extended in 2005 for a period of 15 years; the real potential for the involvement of other private companies in the sphere of activities undertaken by CIE therefore remains to be seen. Furthermore, the new Electricity Code does not signal complete liberalisation of the electricity sector; the State retains its monopoly in respect of dispatching activities.

The involvement of IPPs in the Côte d'Ivoire power sector is governed by a system of convention agreements, such agreements being entered into by the IPP and the State prior to the commencement of the relevant activities. The provisions contained in the new Electricity Code in respect of the procedure by which such conventions are granted are worthy of note. These provisions establish the general rule that the convention process is usually to be commenced by way of public tender, either national or international. However, the regulation implementing the new Electricity Code2 provides that a closed tender process is available, and additionally, that the public tender process may be derogated from in exceptional circumstances as defined in the public procurement law.

Further attempts have been made to improve the investment environment for IPPs by way of changes introduced in respect of pricing. The presence of extensive social tariffs and the failure of electricity pricing to reflect production costs have been considered potential barriers to private sector investment in Côte d'Ivoire's power sector. The government has announced a new pricing strategy which includes down-scaling the social tariff regime and implementing gradual pricing increases, demonstrating its objective of rendering investment in the electricity sector more financially attractive to investors. This objective is also reflected in the new Electricity Code, which specifically provides that pricing should take into account the costs, charges and expected profits arising from the obligations of public service in the electricity sector and the financial equilibrium of the operator and its investment return. As yet, it is too early to conclude whether these changes have been sufficient in addressing investors' concerns and how they will be received within local communities.

In addition, the new Electricity Code reinforces the power and competencies of ANARE as regulator of the electricity sector and provides a tighter legislative framework in respect of criminal sanctions to tackle problems such as illegal connection, and the consequences of any violation of the Code's provisions.

Potential future developments: Plans for diversification and expansion

The government's Master Plan 2013-2030 sets ambitious goals for the development of Côte d'Ivoire's power sector. Of particular interest is the government's focus on the diversification of fuel sources, particularly biomass and coal, and the move away from thermal power plants. Future development of the sector is also set to witness a greater focus on the development of Côte d'Ivoire's renewable energy output. As part of the government's energy targets, renewable energy should contribute 20% of Côte d'Ivoire's installed capacity by 2030. Huge investment will need to be channelled into the sector to achieve this goal, with the current proportion owed to renewable energy standing at approximately 2%. The government's emphasis on the role to be played by public-private partnerships (PPPs) going forward appears to set the stage for the likely deal structure envisaged for such investment.

Extension of the West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAGP) to Côte d'Ivoire constitutes a priority in the government's development plans for the power sector, providing the country with much-needed infrastructure to deliver fuel to its electricity plants. In March of this year Côte d'Ivoire submitted a formal request to Nigeria for the provision of LNG supplies and the ultimate future extension of the pipeline. Nigeria has responded positively to the preliminary element of this request, such an agreement being in line with its objectives to foster further economic integration in the West Africa corridor, and to revitalise the West Africa Power Pool. The realisation of the extension of the WAGP to Côte d'Ivoire may depend upon relations between Côte d'Ivoire and neighbouring countries in the WAGP partnership.

Conclusion

Time will tell whether the Ivorian government's recent reforms prove profitable for Côte d'Ivoire and whether the political, economic and legal climate paves the way for increased investment in the country's power sector. Although future developments cannot be guaranteed, the introduction of the new Electricity Code provides tangible evidence of the Ivorian government's wider efforts to realise its energy goals and to foster greater confidence in investors considering the growing opportunities to make a return in the power sector in Côte d'Ivoire.