BIG LIGHT HAS COME
Monrovia – It was a sunny Thursday, on the outskirt of the capital Monrovia when the Government of President George Manneh Weah officially switched on the CLSG grid and delivered the much-awaited affordable and reliable electricity to the public. The milestone ceremony was held at Mount Coffee with Liberia’s Justice Minister Cllr. Musa Dean performing the task on behalf of the Liberian leader.
By: J. H. Webster Clayeh & Sidiki Trawally
The historic event was graced by an array of Liberian government officials including Ministers of Mines and Energy, Information, and Internal Affairs, acting Chief Executive Officer of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), Monie R. Captan, TRANSCO CLSG’s high-level delegation from Cote d’Ivoire headed by its General Manager Mohammed M. Sherif, member of the national legislature, members of the diplomatic corps including the US and the EU Ambassadors, development partners, representatives of CI Energies, Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission (LERC), and other dignitaries.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Captain disclosed that the CLSG connection to the Liberian network will increase LEC’s power generation capacity by 27 Megawatts. He said the power to be added on amounts to about 50% of what Mt. Coffee Hydro currently generates. Mr. Captan said the additional power will help Liberia go a long way in addressing the country’s dry season needs.
Cote d’Ivoire is not giving us free electricity. The Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) we signed requires Liberia to pay for the electricity it receives. Our goal is to work with communities in making this agreement sustainable and successful through legal connections and regular payment of electricity bills.– Mr. Monie Captan, Acting CEO, Liberia Electricity Corporation
According to him, the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that was signed with Cote d’Ivoire requires Liberia to pay for the electricity it receives. “Our goal is to work with communities in making this agreement sustainable and successful through legal connections and regular payment of electricity bills. Cote d’Ivoire is not giving us free electricity.”
Mr. Captan said the agreements including the Transmission Service Agreement with TRANSCO CLSG, offer a long-term electricity supply arrangement between the parties. He said the agreements are renewable and can ensure the viability of trade on the transmission line between benefitting countries.
The LEC management, he said, is confident that the country is getting closer to its national goal of increasing access to electricity for all Liberians. With the growing demand for electricity, the LEC management is encouraging all its customers currently connected to the national grid, to use electricity efficiently and avoid wasteful consumption.
Mr. Captan said as Liberia prepares to meet its future energy needs, LEC will shortly begin the implementation of a 20-megawatt solar power project and the expansion of the Mt. Coffee Hydropower Plant by two additional turbines through a partnership between the World Bank and the Government of Liberia. Additionally, the West African Power Pool, the Government of Liberia, and the World Bank are undertaking a feasibility study for the development of a 148MW hydropower plant upstream of the St. Paul River, a press release issued by the LEC said.
The General Manager of TRANSCO CLSG gave an overview of the landmark CLSG project. He disclosed that the interconnection project far advanced with an overall progress rate of 98%. For the specific case of Liberia, the CLSG project involves the construction of five 225 kV substations and approximately 530 km of 225 kV power line running across the country from Man in Cote d’Ivoire to Yekepa in Nimba, through Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Montserrado, Bomi, and Cape Mount Counties, before crossing into neighboring Sierra Leone.
Mr. Sherif said TRANSCO CLSG has completed and energized four out of five substations in Liberia including the Yekepa, (Nimba County), Buchanan (Grand Bassa County), Mt. Coffee (Montserrado County), and Mano (Grand Cape Mount County) substations. The Botota substation in Bong County, he disclosed, is undergoing pre-testing and will be ready for energization shortly.
Mr. Sherif explained that the substations will provide Liberia the opportunity to deliver reliable power supply to communities along the CLSG line and the nearby counties. He said the Yekepa substation has the capacity to transmit electricity to Nimba, and parts of Bong County, the Buchanan substation will transmit electricity to Grand Bassa, Rivercess, parts of Sinoe, and parts of Margibi counties while the Mount Coffee substation has got the capacity to transmit electricity that can light up the entire Montserrado county.
With this achievement, Liberia now joins Sierra Leone and Guinea to enjoy 24-hour electricity as part of the larger efforts to foster regional integration and boost regional development and improve the economies of the four countries.– Mr. Mohammed Sherif, General Manager, TRANSCO CLSG
He furthered that the Mano substation will transmit electricity to Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, and Bomi counties while the Bototasubstation will transmit electricity to central, northern, and eastern parts of Liberia. The Botota substation, he revealed, also has the potential to connect with the future St. Paul River hydroelectricity expansion project that is being prepared by the government of Liberia with the support of the World Bank.
“With this achievement, Liberia now joins Sierra Leone and Guinea to enjoy 24-hour electricity as part of the larger efforts to foster regional integration and boost regional development and improve the economies of the four countries,” Sherif said.
Mr. Sherif explained that by switching on the CLSG light, the people of Liberia are offered hope for a better life, improved health, and quality education, alleviation of poverty, and fostering sustainable socio-economic development. “This is a clear manifestation of the commitment of the CLSG governments and their people to ensure this legacy project is achieved for the benefit of all Liberians and the people of the ECOWAS region,” Sherif said.
He thanked President Weah, the Government, the people of Liberia, the Presidents, and the Governments of Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, and Guinea for their continuous support and contribution toward the successful delivery of the CLSG interconnection Project. He also thanked the donor partners, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AFDB), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the KFW (German Development Bank), for their significant roles in mobilizing the required financial and technical resources in making the CLSG Project a reality.
Mr. Sherif paid special tribute to Minister Gesler Murray of Mines and Energy and
Minister Samuel Tweh, Minister of Finance and Development Planning for their leadership role in making the project a success in Liberia. He also lauded other ministries and agencies of government including the Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Mines and Energy, Labor, Gender, and other key stakeholders including traditional leaders, Social Protection, the various superintendents, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Traditional Chiefs, and Elders in our areas of operations, the Project Affected Persons, contractors, and subcontractors for their strong collaboration which enabled TRANSCO CSG to achieve the fundamental objective of the CLSG Project which is to interconnect the power systems of the four CLSG countries and deliver unimpeded and affordable electricity to our people.
For his part, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean acknowledged that the people-center CLSG project is being applauded by all well-meaning citizens, politics aside because it affects lives in a positive way. However, he cautioned Liberians to make sure they pay the electricity bills so that everyone enjoys 24-hour electricity.
Cllr. Dean added: “Those of us in the community should know that the electricity is not free, so do not go steal it. I know you… The people power they brought here (in Liberia) is not free.” He urged Liberians to take full responsibility and make sure the bills are paid to make LEC viable. “I am not a politician. I am a law enforcement officer, so do not steal the power yaa.”
The Liberian minister warned that those found stealing the electricity will be arrested and prosecuted. He said the law will take its full course to ensure stealing is discouraged. “Today marked a major milestone for Liberia,” he said, adding that the government remains fully committed to actively participating in the West African Power Pool (WAPP) to provide affordable and reliable energy and to ensure Liberia’s economic development.
Minister Dean is optimistic that the TRANSCO CLSG project is going to revolutionize economic development and growth on a scale never imagined in recent decades to bring Liberia once more on the right trajectory as a beacon of hope in the subregion in terms of business. Connecting Liberia to the 225Kv CLSG power line stands to improve people’s access to reliable electricity and spur economic activities in the country as well as ease the dry season energy deficit that the country faces each year.
Inarguably, the government’s move to join the regional electricity grid is a significant investment that is surely going to not only have great returns in economic growth but improve the standard of living of ordinary Liberians in a significant way as part of the government’s pro-poor agenda, he said.
The CLSG electricity would promote regional trade and is going to boost the health and education sectors of Liberia as health workers would have unhindered access to electricity to respond to emergency cases, while students would study at home under electricity to help improve their performance on exams to the delight of their parents, explained the EU Ambassador……
The CLSG project could not have been possible without the support of international partners, namely, the World Bank, European Investment Bank, African Development Bank, German Development Bank, and other important stakeholders including the four CLSG countries. He said with the LEC connecting to the CLSG line, Liberians must see reasons to minimize the issue of power theft in order to enable LEC to pay for the electricity that has been provided to Liberia.
For the US Ambassador …, he recognized the remarkable roles played by LEC and the government of Liberia for the milestone achievement. “This is an important day in the history of Liberia’s power sector. It has taken hundreds of millions of international donor dollars and years of effort to get Liberia’s power sector ready to be integrated into the West African power network,” Ambassador … said.
“When LEC transitioned to the Liberian leadership, there were those who expressed doubt about the continued progress on key initiatives including CLSG negotiations and power theft, but today, we witnessed the fact that Liberian leadership can succeed.”
Today we stand on the backs of so many who came before us. The people of Japan who paid for the very first generator Bushrod Island, the people of Germany who started the repairs on the mount Coffee hydro plant. This is the achievement of LEC and the government of Liberia. This is an important day, in the history of the Liberian power sector.– Michael McCarthy, US Ambassador, to Liberia
Ambassador…. said the connection of the CLSG line to the Liberian network was something that many analysts doubted it was possible to be concluded by this dry season, “yet here we stand today because of full-grown Liberian leadership, innovation, and initiative. We are grateful that the long-held goal of the United States, to ensure that the people of Liberia enjoy reliable and affordable electricity is realized. Today moves another step forward to being achieved.”
Ambassador …. said he was especially pleased with the government of Liberia and the LEC bringing to full success the “significant investments the American people and all of our partners from the world have made in this sector.” He lauded LEC and the government of Liberia for the effort in curbing power theft.