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Cameroon, AES-Sonel Oil-fired Power

Delivering 85MW of reliable, base-load power to the people of Cameroon

The first AES-Sonel(AES) project saw the construction and commissioning of an 85MW heavy fuel oil-fired power plant in Limbé, in the south-west of Cameroon. It is adjacent to the parastatal SONARA refinery, –which is the source of its fuel. The plant provides power when AES-SONEL’s hydro-electric capacity is reduced. The Limbé thermal plant has increased the energy generated in Cameroon by 10% and helped reduce the frequent load shedding. Power is now available year-round, improving living standards and promoting business growth. The Limbé project was followed by a five year programme of additional investments in key sectors of the company’s business, predominantly in transmission and distribution.


Cameroon relies on hydro-electricity for 70% of its power generation but, during the country’s eight-month dry season from November to June, river flows are greatly reduced. In the past, periods of drought, coupled with increasing demand for power have led to stringent rationing of electricity to consumers. This‘load shedding’became increasingly frequent, highlighting the need for a supplementary power supply.

Power utility SONEL, which provided all Cameroon’s electricity, was previously owned by the government, until partial privatisation in 2001, when the USA-based AES took a 56% stake. AES both generates and distributes power to over 820,000 customers in the country. However, only 40% of the 17 million population have access to power and, in rural areas, the figure falls around 6%.

AES has steadily improved and expanded generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and is now upgrading existing facilities to enhance the electricity network. It is expected to more than double the number of people it serves over the next 15 years, including those in previously unserved areas. With plans to add 750,000 new electricity connections by 2021, the company connects 50,000 new families each year.


To finance the construction and commissioning of the new 85MW Limbé plant, AES secured a US$554million financing package from sources including EAIF, FMO and Finnfund, as well as US$168million raised through domestic commercial equity.

The Limbé plant is the first project of AES-SONEL financed by DFIs, followed by a larger capital expenditure programme of €291.3 million investment, which is part-financed by a group of DFI lenders brought together by EAIF; including FMO, Finnfund, Finnish Export Credit, Proparco, DEG, AfDB, IFC and EIB.


PIDG company EAIF committed a vital US$30million to the Limbé project, and played the critical role of arranging the balance of the debt financing. For the larger financing programme undertaken by AES, EAIF rolled over its existing facility, and increased its exposure by a further US$5.5million.  This provided vital bridging finance, and smoothed the way for other institutions to support AES-Sonel’s new five-year capital expenditure programme. The refinancing was converted into a wider Euro-based package.


Private Sector investment

Total commitments



Fiscal benefits

The total taxes paid by AES – SONEL between 2005 and 2012 are €166 million.

Increased economic activity has had a positive impact on indirect employment.

A more reliable electricity utility contributes to the sustainable economic development of the country as a whole, and the business community in particular

Job Creation



508 people

Additional Benefits

The 85MW Limbé plant is fully constructed and has been 100% operational since 2004. Limbé increased available generating capacity in the country by approximately 10%.

As an integrated utility that both generates and distributes power, AES SONEL provides 820,000 people with improved power supply and is on track to connect over 900,000 additional people with access to a new power connection in Cameroon.

There has been significant improvement in electricity supply and reliability, and a fall in load hedding in Cameroon.

AES-SONEL is one of the few privatised utilities in Africa and a successful public-private partnership model for other utilities in the region