Totota, Bong County – The Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) Samuel D. Tweah has revealed that the Government of Liberia has created a solar energy budget line in the 2021/2022 budget to support the electrification of remote and rural communities in the country.
Speaking recently in Totota City, Bong County during a tour of the Totota Electric Cooperative (TEC) mini grid facility, Minister Tweah described the facility as a “pioneering innovation that the government will use to replicate in other cities and towns in Liberia ”.
Minister Tweah promised to support TEC in their effort to enhance and expand their operations to other communities. He said the government will top on the skills and expertise of technicians at TEC in its drive to duplicate the module in other counties.
He lauded the efforts of the people of Totota and asserted that rural communities are now competing with urban areas in terms of development and innovation.
For his part, Mines and Energy Minister Gesler E. Murray lamented that access to electricity remains a challenge in Liberia as compared to neighbouring countries. He said the government is doing everything possible to liberalize the electricity sector.
Minister Murray said the TEC’s operations is a smart system that must be emulated in other parts of the country and promised that the government will support TEC to ensure that the rest of Totota and its surrounding communities have access to electricity.
He expressed concern that the L$0.48 cents electricity tariff provided by TEC was a bit high as compared to the national operator, LEC cost of US$0.35 cents.
LERC Chairman Dr. Lawrence D. Sekajipo said the Commission was pleased with the work of TEC and would not hesitate to showcase TEC’s work to stakeholders and donors whenever there is an opportunity and this was evident by the visitation of dignitaries.
Free of Power Theft
In his presentation to guests during the tour, TEC’s General Manager Aaron B. F. Massaquoi said the project commenced in 2016 following a willingness to pay survey conducted by authorities at National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International (NRECA).
TEC impacts the lives of about 20,000 people in and around Totota with 2,302 homes as direct beneficiaries. TEC has 350 customers with 255 residential, 70 businesses, four Schools, three clinics, and 18 others such as Churches, Mosques and offices, among others. Forty-nine percent of the total consumptions come from households, 46% of the total consumptions come from businesses while 5% come from others, Massaquoi said during his presentation.
“On the average, 87% of connected customers turn out every month to purchase electricity. The system operates for 24hrs. daily. Average load is 30 kW with a peak load of 59kW. Daily energy consumption is 550kWh. Last year 2020, TEC operated for 6,556.9 hours out of a scheduled time of 6,786.5 hours and has a 96% reliability”, he told guests.
Since 2018, TEC has sold electricity valued at L$36,225,814.031 with the average recharge of L$746.
TEC, Mr. Massaquoi explained, “is using smart meters which are manufactured by a US-based company. These meters are capable of synchronizing in the cloud for remote control and reporting information from individual homes. Because of the smart capability of these meters and can easily be monitored remotely from anywhere, we have not experienced any issue of power theft across our network”.
He told stakeholders that the Cooperative is currently faced with various challenges that are affecting its operational expansion; pointing out the lack of electrical poles, cables, vehicles and among others. “Our field staff have to carry electrical poles and wires on their shoulders through the streets to provide access to electricity to residents of Totota.”
Members of the delegation included Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Mines and Energy Minister Gesler E. Murray, Chairman Dr. Lawrence D. Sekajipo and members of the Board of Commissioners of LERC, Chairman, Board of Directors at Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) Monie Captan, a representative from the World Bank Liberia Senior Energy Specialist Ky Hong Tran, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International (NRECA) Country Director, Luis Arismendi and among others.
The TEC mini grid project, a solar-diesel hybrid plant with a capacity of 70KW each, was provided through the support of NRECA and in partnership with USAID. The project was commissioned in March 2018 and turned over to TEC to manage in May 2018.
The Commission this year issued a Small Composite Micro Utility Permit to TEC to generate and distribute electricity without discrimination to customers within Totota City, in Lower Bong County. Stakeholders during the visit, toured the mini grid facility being operated by TEC.