Liberia's postwar energy problems continues to be a challenge even though the government has made the provision of electricity a top priority in its budgetary undertakings.
Driving though the capital city Monrovia at night is a routine of darkness because even the 'Small Lights Today' that the government promised and was somehow delivering upon through the Liberia Electricity Corporation's emergency power program seems to be slowly disappearing.
Capitol Hill the seat of government that houses the Executive mansion, Legislature and the judiciary is pitch dark as the night sets in with not even a single streetlight to brighten up the sky.
On Monday at the ministry of information weekly press briefing, Information minister Lewis Brown told journalists that the issue of darkness across the city has claimed the attention of the President and she has ordered the LEC to double its pace in making sure that power is distributed to homes and businesses across the city and beyond. The LEC's new mandate is to make sure that many more homes and businesses are added to the power grid monthly.
"The President had received information that there was a snail pace in the connection of households and businesses to the LEC power grid," said Minister Brown.
"For the President and this administration, it is unacceptable, where there is capacity to connect households and businesses to the electric grid and people are moving as if this is not a national priority for the government."
He said the president instructed with immediate effect that the LEC connects a minimum of 1,000 households and businesses to the electric grid. Minister Brown said the LEC has agreed to carry out the President's order.
"We received reports yesterday that in many communities and in many places there are distribution lines that are being hung up. There are poles that have been planted and transformers that have been hooked up," he said.
"LEC has indicated through the minister of Lands Mines and energy that they are ready to ensure that a minimum of 1,000 connections takes place every month. Any day now we expect that households in 18 villages and towns, spanning from Nimba to Grand Gedeh will be connected to the cross border power lines."
Few days ago the government through the LEC concluded and signed a contract with Voith Hydro GmbH & Co. KG, a German company, for the supply and installation of the generating equipment needed for the rehabilitation of the Mt. Coffee hydro power plant.
The contract which will see the securing of the generating equipment comprising of the four turbines and generators (each with a capacity of over 20 MW), generator circuit breakers, generator step-up transformers, gas-insulated switchgear, bridge crane, and associated equipment is the closest that Liberia has ever gotten to its dream of reconstructing the hydro plant that was destroyed due to years of war.
The government secured funding package through the World Bank for the rehabilitation of the hydro but the start of actual work has been slow. The LEC itself has not been able to meet the huge demands for electricity across the city and for the little it has been able to provide, power theft has been a problem.
"There was a bit of set back in that process because people started using the lines for scrap," said Minister Brown on Thursday.
"That situation has now been corrected and we expect, given the report from the minister of Lands Mines and Energy; we encourage you, we will be in a couple of weeks touring the country. "Minister Brown told journalists that the government is set to begin linking rural communities to the power grid soon.
"The good news also is that that connection should flow up to Maryland and we've been informed that in fact the connections will begin in Maryland sometime in the dry season," he said.
The West African Power Pool, WAPP Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea (CLSG) transmission interconnection project is also under preparation. It consists of a new 225 kV transmission line connecting the power networks of the CLSG countries. The CLSG is scheduled to connect to the Liberia network in 2018.