Energy Reformation Perspective on Sierra Leone’s Energy Sector Reforms: Challenges and Hopes

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By Austine Luseni, Communications Specialist, Ministry of Energy

Sierra Leone has had to grapple with the nightmarish issue of poor, erratic and unsustainable electricity for decades. Since independence in 1961, the country has not been able to put in place a permanent and reliable national grid that would satisfy the needs of the people and stimulate national growth or development.

The cities of Bo and Kenema in the southeast were made to rely on the Dodo Mini Hydropower Dam .Bo and Kenema would benefit from a partially uninterrupted power supply in the rainy season, but would experience instances of long periods of total outages or epileptic electricity supply in the dry season. The Bo-Kenema Power Services (BKPS) faced daunting challenges.

In the capital Freetown, electricity generated from the various thermal plant installations run by the then National Power Authority (NPA) was grossly short of the megawatts required for the city .And as the city expanded and experienced an explosion in population, the machines began to perish under pressure. Even with the partial operationalization of the Bumbuna Hydroelectric Power Dam, which many believed was going to solve the city’s electricity woes, the electricity situation in the city worsened. Freetown would even come to be humorously and satirically regarded as one of the darkest cities in the world.

The previous administration of Ernest Bai Koroma did not help the situation either. The then APC government, despite inheriting a very solid economic foundation, could only adopt cosmetic and unsustainable measures in creating the impression to citizens that the issue of electricity had been addressed.The measures and policies were indeed a flash in the pan as they were unsustainable, unreliable, riddled with corrupt practices and heavily cost intensive. Thus, electricity in the city unsurprisingly disappeared with the disappearance of the APC from governance.

Then came who is now widely believed to be the country’s electricity deus ex machina after April 2018- Minister of Energy, Alhaji Kanja Sesay. President Julius Maada Bio knew that Mr Sesay is the man with the apt experience and pedigree needed for the complete revolutionization of the country’s energy sector. He knew that Mr Sesay would surely rise to the occasion and help him realize his Government’s overall policy objective in the arena. The coming propitious events have now cast their shadows -there is light at the end of Sierra Leone’s dark energy tunnel.

The minister of energy continues to adopt and to implement reform measures that continue to positively impact and transform the energy sector. A lot of energy revolutionization projects are underway and are being undertaken on impressive scales and with accuracy and speed aimed at putting Sierra Leone on the rightful trajectory for energy security through expansion, accessibility and sustainability.

However, massive challenges still continue to beset the sector and efforts to find solutions to the country’s energy crisis. The Minister of Energy is as concerned as every staff of the Ministry and EDSA. They are certainly not sleeping on duty and are not turning blind eyes to the situation. Efforts are being made to ameliorate the occasional or partial energy issues that Freetown has had to face in recent weeks.

Parliament has recently approved the five-year extension contract signed between the Ministry of Energy and the Karpowership for the purposes of sustaining and guaranteeing electricity supply in the capital. The transmission and distribution network is undergoing a massive overhaul and new transformers are being provided to communities and public institutions. The Bo-Kenema Network Rehabilitation and Expansion Project has also taken off and so is the Township Electrification Project. Added to these impressive strides are the CLSG and the Rural Mini Grid projects.

With Mr Sesay bearing the energy torch, Sierra Leoneans are assured of positive and permanent transformations in the energy domain.