YAOUNDE, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Cameroon's 216-megawatt Kribi gas-fired power plant, majority-owned by U.S. power firm AES Corporation, will start commercial operations in late March, a senior executive said on Tuesday.
Geremie Bitanga, technical director of the Kribi Power Development Corporation (KPDC), said the gradual startup and testing of the plant's 13 engines would begin on Wednesday, after the gas supply was successfully connected this week.
"From March 23 the plant will be ready for commercial operation and be operating at full capacity," he told reporters.
KPDC is 56 percent owned by AES, with the remaining 44 percent in the hands of the Cameroon government.
The 173.2 billion CFA franc ($345 million) plant, built by Finland's Wartsila, will run on natural gas from the off-shore Sanaga-South field operated by Cameroon's state oil company, SNH, and independent producer Perenco - the first major commercial development of Cameroon's substantial gas reserves.
The plant will boost Cameroon's electricity capacity to around 1,240 megawatts, helping to meet domestic demand, rising at an estimated 8 percent per year. The World Bank has estimated power shortages cost the Cameroon economy two percentage points of GDP growth a year.