The Analyst (Monrovia)

29 January 2013

Liberia: 'Big Light' Sure to Come - Pres. Sirleaf Upbeat About 'Small Light's' Days Numbered

Perhaps aware that Liberia's genuine recovery and development depended on stable public electricity, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made a pledge during the infantile days of her administration. The pledge eventually turned into the popular slogan, "Small Light Today, Big Light Tomorrow." In early days of her first six-year term, she fulfilled the "small light today" with power grids that reach as far as slum communities in the suburbs of Monrovia. Now at the early days of her second term, he again sounds similarly upbeat that the latter part of the promise, "Big Light Tomorrow" is on its way to fulfillment. The Analyst reports.

Delivering her 7th State of the Nation Address at the Capitol Building yesterday, President Sirleaf did not only recount a horde of achievements she made during the reporting period, 2013, but also kept her nationwide audience on the edges of their seats with hypnotizing promises of more goodies in the new year. Prominent on the list was the provision of electricity that would go to every nook and corner of Liberia; a promise that may bring to an end the era of candle lights and flash rights as sources of light for homes and school children.

The Liberian President say plans are underway for the enhancement of the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant by building an upstream storage capacity at the Vai River to ensure water year-round, thereby raising our power-generating capacity from 80 to 1,000 megawatts.

At that capacity, she said, Government will be able to further reduce the price of electricity to as low as 15 cents per kilowatt hour to the entire country and subsidize electricity in places where affordability is an issue. She said this will enable Government to supply the energy demands of major off-takers in our economy, to include all mining, agricultural and heavy industrial operations.

According to the President, abundant, reliable and affordable electricity will transform small businesses, eliminating high recurrent costs and allowing them to save, expand and hire more people.

"At 1000 MW, even in the absence of the mines, we will export electricity through the West African Power Pool," she further said, adding: "A reservoir on the St. Paul River will transform our energy sector, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in hard currency for the central government. A high-level MCC delegation will visit Monrovia in the first week of February, to work with us in designing the Compact Program. We intend to further impress upon them the importance of harnessing the full potential of the St. Paul River."

Reporting to the nation that 10,000 households in Monrovia have connected to power from the national electricity grid which over the last few years, President Sirleaf said, when expanded, by 2015, power reach 100,000 properties in Monrovia, as well as homes and businesses in rural areas. We are currently executing a project to connect 6,000 small businesses and homes between downtown Monrovia and Sinkor.

"As we wait on the hydro, we continue to expand service through thermal generation. Plans are well advanced to phase out our current stock of high-speed diesel generators and replace them with more efficient heavy fuel oil (HFO) power plants," she said. "Through public resource allocations, an 18- megawatt HFO plant will be installed by December 2014. Additionally, the Government of Japan, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has approved a project for a 10- megawatt medium-speed HFO diesel plant, expected to be completed by January 2015. With support from the World Bank, procurement is also under way for another 10-megawatt HFO."

She said access to power is not possible if "we do not build an adequate transmission and distribution network to convey the electricity," President Sirleaf further stressed. "To this end, we have designed a transmission and distribution system to provide access to Monrovia and surrounding communities."

This project, according to her, includes the reconstruction of sub-stations in Gardnersville, Virginia and the Freeport area; as well as expansion of the Paynesville sub-station and construction of a new one in Schefflein to cover the Robertsfield highway. This also includes the Three Corridors project, which will extend electricity into the other neighboring counties, beginning with the construction of a transmission lines from ELWA Junction to Harbel, Bushrod Island to Tubmanburg and Redlight to Kakata.

The Liberian leaders also said significant progress has also been made in implementation of the cross-border project between Liberia and la Côte d'Ivoire that will bring electricity to eighteen communities in four counties.

According to her, construction work for the lines is substantially completed in Nimba and Grand Gedeh and that work in Maryland, delayed due to challenging road and weather conditions, commenced over the past two months, and we are getting positive response to our request to extend the service to River Gee.

"We expect the cross-border project to be completed by July of this year. This West African Power Pool project is financed by the EU and the two collaborating countries, at a cost of €9.5 million. The EU will provide 50 percent, while the two beneficiary countries will provide the remaining," she assured Liberians.

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