TRANSCO CLSG PROJECT ON COURSE: Eyeing 2018 for Powering of First Grid

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Rodney D. Sieh, rodney.sieh@frontpageafricaonline.com

ABIDJAN –  TRANSCO CLSG is making a strong push to consolidate electricity amongst four West African nations – Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea by 2018.

Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States met a decade ago and agreed to develop a regional electricity market. The plan is making inroads, according to Etienne Bailly, project director at Transco CLSG. “What we are anticipating is that by June of this year we will have the contractors on board and by 2018 we will commission the line.”

He said TRANSCO CLSG, the regional transmission company that is leading the multi-million donor funded power project plans to do a sequential commissioning. “This means that we are not waiting for all the lines to be completed before we energize. For example, he said the transmission line from Yekepa to Buchanan, when completed would be energized.

There is also a rural electrification component of the project for people in the rural areas including villages and towns to receive electricity. “We are pushing for 2017 to realize that.” Bailly says as soon as the bidding process is concluded, contractors would be hired to immediately begin construction activities in the CLSG countries.

Electricity has been a major hindrance to development in West Africa and many see the emergence and consolidation of resources among Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea that could mark the start of a rapid transformation of the economies in those countries as West Africa’s regional body pools resources to establish an electricity market that will end the blackouts, which have blighted its 15 member states for decades.

TRANSCO CLSG was set up by West African Power Pool (WAPP) to develop a 1,303 km (807 miles) interconnection line from Côte d’Ivoire to Liberia linking Sierra Leone and Guinea. A master plan to address the energy deficit in the post-conflict countries was put together with the aim to create a regional electricity market. The region currently produced 10,000 megawatts of electricity and had 4,000 km of transmission lines, but needs 26,000 megawatts of generation capacity and 16,000 km of connection lines to plug the power deficit.

Recently, the TRANSCO CLSG management launched bids for the transmission line under the World Bank and European Investment Bank Package, following which a team of TRANSCO CLSG staff accompanied pre-qualified international contractors on a site visits to the various transmission line project sites in Liberia and Sierra Leone respectively.

The initial site visits to Liberia took the team to Yekepa, Buchanan and Mano, while in Sierra Leone, the team visited Bikongor, Bumbuna and Yiben.

Detail of areas visited:

EPC-TL-WB/EIB-04 – Lot 1: 225 KV TL Yekepa (L) – Buchanan (L) (229 km, financed by WB); EPC-TL-WB/EIB-04 –

Lot 2: 225 KV TL Buchanan (L) – Monrovia (L) – Mano (L) (219 km, financed by WB); EPC-TL-WB/EIB-04 –

Lot 3: 225 KV TL Mano (L) – Kenema (SL) – Bikongor (SL) (211 km, financed by EIB); EPC-TL-WB/EIB-04 –

Lot 4: 225 KV TL Bikongor (SL)-Bumbuna (SL)-Yiben (SL) (219 km, financed by EIB).

The missions were conducted simultaneously by two teams – one to Liberia headed by the Director of the Project Implementation Unit, Mr. Etienne Baily, and another team to Sierra Leone headed by the Director of Finance and Administration, Mr. Jigba Yilla. Similar visitations to Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire are being planned. Prior to the site assessment tours, TRANSCO CLSG held a crucial pre-bid meeting with company (ies) that have already acquired the tender documents at the TRANSCO CLSG headquarters in Abidjan.

The TRANSCO CLSG team along with pre-qualified contractors toured several corridors already marked for the construction of transmission lines and sub stations. Mr. Mohammed Sherif, the General Manager of TRANSCO CSLG said, he has been impressed with the progress so far. “We have moved significantly with the project. The last time we spoke we were in the process of prequalification – to prequalify contractors and commence actual work with transmission lines, sub-stations. We are now in the process of hiring the engineers that will be responsible for the supervision of the construction.”

According to Sherif, the World Bank and the African Development Bank have provided no objection to make sure the project goes into full gear.” According to him, contractors who are supposed to build the transmission line in Liberia and Sierra Leone have been prequalified. Out of fifteen, he said, nine firms were selected for the transmission line project in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Added Sherif: “It is the same for the sub-stations. We have pre-qualified contractors for the sub-stations in Sierra Leone and Liberia. He said meetings between TRANSCO CSLG and the Liberia Electricity Corporation, have been productive and both parties are on the same page. The meeting, he said was intended to move the process forward, to coordinate and to see how best LEC and TRANSCO CLSG plans can be integrated.

Sherif says the CLSG project will build four substations (possibility of fifth substation) in Liberia with one situated at Mount Coffee. According to him, the technicians who visited the corridors assessed the challenges and are fully aware of the terrains. Fortunately, from the feedback “we are getting, the technicians have found this visit fruitful.” He said the contractors are confident that they would handle those challenges in the project implementation.

“There aren’t too many rivers, just mere bushes that can be easily brushed. Fortunately for Liberia, most of the places our transmission lines will pass, largely affects rubber trees along the track toward Firestone where we will be doing most of the work. Of course coming toward Kakata there will be people who will be affected; but around Ganta, there will be about 112 households that will be affected. So it is a good news for the project. Contractors are appreciative of what they saw.”

Sherif disclosed that the issue of the Ebola remains a major concern for the contractors, but that TRANSCO CLSG is making sure contractors concerns are addressed properly in order to ally their fears.

Liberia has been declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization, however some of the contractors raised the issue of fear for their security. “We are making sure our contractors safety remains a top priority while they do their work.” Sherif assured.

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