European Union Head of Delegation Wants Government of Liberia Develop Master Plan for Its Electricity Sector

MONROVIA – The head of delegation of the European Union Mission in Liberia, Amb. Laurent Delahousse, has made a resounding call on the Government of Liberia to draw up a master plan for the electricity sector.

The energy sector is viewed as one of the areas with huge potential that could boost Liberia’s economy in its post war recovery and reconstruction drive if managed properly. It has received massive support in hundreds of millions of dollars from Liberia’s partners including the EU and the United States.

Addressing the Ministry of Information regular press briefing, Amb. Delahousse said addressing the electricity challenge in Liberia requires a joint exercise involving the Government of Liberia, the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), the people of Liberia and the international donor community.

The Government, he said should craft a master plan to clearly spell out its strategies for the energy sector.

“We are calling Liberia to define, under the leadership of His Excellency President George Manneh Weah and the Honorable Minister of Mines and Energy, a master plan for the development of its power sector,” Amb. Delahousse said.

The strategies, he said, should include new generation capacities to meet the expected increase in power consumption; ambitious use of Liberia’s assets for renewable energy such as hydro and solar power; sustainable participation to the regional network offered by the CSLG line, strengthening of the client base through the connection of more Liberian businesses, delivery of power to many  more Liberian households and families, and bringing the tariff of electricity, which is exceptionally high in Liberia, to levels more affordable for ordinary Liberian families.

“The international partners and friends of Liberia call on the Government of Liberia for clarity on its strategy for the electricity sector, for vision on powering Liberia to empower Liberians,” he said.

Speaking further, he said with the existing infrastructures, the focus is not on the increase of generation capacity; rather the priority for the short term is, first, on developing and making full use of the transmission networks, both nationally and throughout the region with the CLSG power line that connects Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

It is necessary to accelerate the connection of communities and large users to the CLSG transmission line to take full advantage of this strategic asset for the country to expand delivery of electricity to all Liberians and increase revenues of LEC, he said.

He added that the priority is also and mostly, on extending distribution, since 88% of Liberians today are not connected to the grid, and disclosed that distribution projects financed by the European Union and the World Bank will soon allow the connection of a more than 200,000 households around Greater Monrovia, twice the number of a year ago.

 Since 2008, the European Union has contributed close to 140 million US dollars in grants to the Government of Liberia for power distribution. The EU is currently connecting 38,000 customers in the capital city under the Monrovia Consolidation of Electricity project.

As part of that project, Amb. Delahousse, on the 5th of March this year,  joined President George Weah in connecting the Peace Island community to the grid.

He noted that other projects from the European Union to deliver electricity to the people of Liberia are in the pipeline, in Buchanan and in some rural communities.

Regarding generation too, he revealed that plans are in the making to bring the installed capacity in Liberia from 126 Megawatts today (88 megawatt at Mount Coffee, 38 at Bushrod Island), to over 400 Megawatts in the not too distant future.

This will involve adding new hydropower units at Mount Coffee, developing solar farms and possibly, but in a more distant future, developing new hydropower capacities on Saint Paul’s River, he said.

However, he said for these projects to materialize, Liberia will need to leverage private investments and only a transparent and competitive bidding process can ensure that qualified contractors are selected who can help Liberia get affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity.

‘No Seh Pay Current’

In spite of the enormous support to the electricity sector, the Liberia Electricity Corporate, the country’s largest distributor of power continues to be badly effected by widespread power theft.

The EU diplomat, dedicating most of his statement to the menace, reiterated U.S. Ambassador Michael McCarthy’s comments that over half of the electricity produced by LEC is either stolen or unpaid for. If you add to that the power that is lost during transport for technical reasons, less than a third of the electricity produced by LEC is paid for, he said.

The consequence, he added, is that the tariff for electricity remains high and the many honest Liberians who pay their bills have to pay an even higher price because theft reduces the revenues of the power utility honest Liberians have to pay for those who steal, and that is by no means fair.

Tampering with the power installations is dangerous, he noted; adding that it overcharges the network, which may result in fire or even explosions, putting human lives at risk in the community. “Illegal connections damage the network and inflict additional maintenance costs to LEC. The more power is stolen from LEC, the less capacity LEC has to extend the network and bring power to more Liberian families.”

Speaking further, he said this cannot continue as it is seriously threatening the financial viability of the operator. The LEC, he stated, losing close to 50 million US dollars annually is certainly a cause for very serious concern. “Illegal connections, tampering with meters, theft of assets including light poles, wires, and transformers must stop immediately,” he warned.

Speaking further he noted that Power theft has consequence beyond the power sector.

“It also affects confidence from potential investors and partners around the world. How can you convince international donors and private companies to invest in the electricity sector when more than half of the output is lost or stolen? Power theft has consequences beyond the power sector, it affects Liberia as a place of doing business.”

He expressed confidence in the Government of Liberia and said he believes that it is fully aware of the situation and addressing the challenge very seriously.

He then thanked, on behalf of the European Union, the Government and the People of Liberia for the progress made in the last few weeks on Electricity, adding he was encouraged by the strong commitment from the highest political level, of which our joint exercise at the press conference with Minister Murray was a testimony.

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