Sierra Leone's Energy Situation, with John Baimba Sesay

Energy experts say most parts of Sierra Leone still have no access to a grid. Distribution lines were destroyed during the civil war, and old equipment still in place need to be replaced. With poor energy efficiency, the existing network is considered "very old" and there are immense power losses in the generation, transmission, and distribution. Many companies are forced to rely on diesel generators.
New commentary by John Baimba Sesay, a former press officer in the Ernest Koroma administration, provides new insights for this timeline of Sierra Leone's energy situation as it unfolded 2007-2018.


"Freetown was a dark city, with electricity supply to the city being at 5MW. But then, the government engaged the services of an independent power provider, as a short term emergency measure, to provide electricity to Freetown...There also was the rehabilitation of the Bo/Kenema Power Station thermal plants eventually expanding power generation from 2 to 5 MW. The country also initiated a comprehensive Rural Energy Programme geared towards electrification of rural village communal facilities. There also was the introduction of solar energy through the Barefoot Solar Women Engineers."


"At the commissioning in June, 2009, of the Regent Primary Substation and the 11kV/33kV Transmission Line, constructed through the Japanese Grant Project for Urgent Improvement of Electricity Power Supply systems, former President Koroma spoke of how convinced he was, that "the multiplier effect of adequate and reliable energy will impact on all sectors of the country and revitalize the economy and improve the standard of living of our people." There was an urgent need to also power our economic expansion without impairing the environment. What the government did was to fully commit itself to harness the vast hydro-electric potential in our rivers and waterways, as well as develop biofuels and solar energy."


"There was the installation of a 10MW thermal plant at Kingtom, boosting supply to 60MW."


"By 2011, the wattage was raised to 76.5MW with the installation of the 16.5MW plant at Blackhall Road, east of Freetown. The Chinese at a given point provided the country with a soft loan which enabled the government to embark on the construction works for Mini-hydro projects at Bankasoka (2MW), Charlotte (3MW) and Makalie (170Kw). We also saw the installation of over 8,000 solar street lights across the country."


"By 2012, through the country's development roadmap, the Agenda for Prosperity (A4P), strategies were outlined that were to help mitigate the challenges faced within the energy sector. The A4P roadmap had to identify and explore other avenues for effective hydroelectricity power potentials. It also increased investment in clean energy by way of harnessing solar power.

"One other key component continued in the A4P growth trajectory was encouraging Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the provision of energy and increasing coverage and regularity of power supply with the major cities."


"So, through a PPP arrangement, therefore, by January, 2018, government contracted Karpowership to "supply 30 MW of power to Freetown for duration of 5 years" and by the time Henry Macauley was leaving as energy minister, the ship was already in the country, with progress to connect to the national grid. Karpowership is a member of the Karadeniz Energy Group based in Istanbul, Turkey. The decision by the Koroma led administration government was condemned by the then Opposition SLPP.

"Just a few weeks in government, things changed, when we were told of a two-year Utility Grid Infrastructure and Electricity Supply Agreement between the Ministry of Energy and Karpowership, for the generation of 30MW of electricity.

'Who would have thought that this boat, brought by the Koroma administration and criticized initially by the Opposition, could survive the test of time?' 

"Come to think of it, this energy ship issue and the criticism it got first made me think of the buses from China.

"By 2015, March, Sierra Leone's Ministry of Transport and Aviation was finalizing arrangement for the shipment of 100 buses into the country following the signing of a contract between the ministry and China Poly Group Corporation for the supply of the said buses in 2014. This subsequently became a political issue. It appeared at the time, that never in our history would we deal with the Chinese especially in a post-Ernest Koroma presidency.

"Well, by August-September, 2018, Minister Kabineh Kallon was signing an agreement with a Chinese company, Golden Dragon for the supply of two hundred buses to Sierra Leone!

"So, let the Power ships come. Few questions though: What is the government's plan for thermal energy? How sustainable would this new arrangement be? How would it be used to ensure, "at least five villages and two towns in each district join the national grid or are connected off-grid on standalone solar or mini-hydro schemes", as contained in the New Direction manifesto?

"The same document talked about "persistent reports of poor procurement practices with contracts often going to party cronies who have limited capacity and knowledge", specifically referring to the previous administration. Along the need for a transparent process, can the public know the current arrangement for this new ship and at what cost will it be operating? By way of suggesting, it would be good for the government to go back to its manifesto and look at those specific action plans it committed itself to.

"With this, I would say, good that we have got another boat, mainly for Freetown east. Good decision! Great also, that it was actually started by the then government."

Read the original article Sierra Leone: The Turkish, Via Boat They Arrived, a Nation Shouts 'Light Done Kam' 


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