The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: Unido Earmarks Mini Hydro Energy for Liberia Soon

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) along with its partners has assured Liberians that in about a month's time it will begin the mini hydro Energy project in Suakoko, Bong County.

The hydropower project development in Liberia is a pilot and demonstrative project co-financed by USAID with UNIDO and Winrock International/LESSP as the implementing agencies to lay the foundation for a market environment for mini hydro-based renewable energy in the country.

At the training workshop held recently in Monrovia, the UNIDO Country Representative based in Guinea, Bafotigui Sako said energy is cross-cutting in development based on its use in productive activities and in basic social services particularly in health and education.

Speaking at the training workshop held under the theme, 'Small Hydropower Project Development in Liberia,' Mr. Sako said UNIDO was committed to meeting the national development agenda of Liberia which accords high priority to development of renewable energy in the country.

He said looking at the energy access in the country, the prevailing data presents Liberia's electrification situation at about 10% of urban residents and less than 2% of rural Liberians have electricity access and that there is no generation capacity outside the capital city except for a handful of privately-owned generators and scattered donor-funded pilot projects.

Mr. Sako reported that in terms of resource potential, Liberia is reported to be well endowed to allow for enough electrification that is the installed generation capacity is approximately 20 MW of diesel generation observing that the country is one of the African countries with the highest amount of renewable water resources per inhabitant with about 68 000 m3/year yet the hydro for energy tapped so far is 4 MW.

He said the training demonstrated UNIDO's commitment and unflinching support to national development and strengthening the human resource capacity of Liberia and Liberians to work closely with national stakeholders, local and international partners.

The training workshop was as a result of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) financed project Liberia SPWA-CC Installation of Multi-Purpose Mini-Hydro Infrastructure for Energy and Irrigation under its strategic program for West Africa- Energy component (SPWA-CC), as part of the project component which focuses on the development of institutional capacities, having identified the capacity gap.

The workshop is aimed at strengthening the technical and managerial knowledge within the country as pertaining to SHP project design and technology, to provide a critical mass of competent professionals in Liberia in the PHP area.

The project also provide planning for the construction and installation of a 1Megawatt 'run of the river' mini-hydropower station in Suakoko District, Bong County harnessing the Mein River.

It is expected that approximately 30% of households in Suakoko District will be provided electricity among which will be not less than 15% in the rural area of the same district.

It is also estimated that the project would bring electricity from the hydro station to various institutions to include government buildings, small and medium enterprises, and commercial buildings.

GEF's support towards the pilot mini hydro project, capacity development mini hydro sector and developing and regulatory framework will enable the government to scale up and replicate the project's achievements across the country.

GEF's support will also ensure that commercialized development of renewable micro and mini hydropower and GHG reductions are sustained by removing technical, policy and capacity barriers; the service of electricity generated from renewable sources can be used for rural livelihoods; confidence for potential project investors will be provided; and that local communities' trust in mini hydropower technologies will be build, which will promote replication.

The overall goal of the project is to remove the institutional, technical, policy and economic barriers to the promotion of mini hydro power for productive applications in Liberia and reduce Green House Gas emissions from fossil based power by accelerating the development of mini hydro resources as Liberia is endowed with significant natural resources in the form of biomass, solar, and hydropower.

Liberia is reported to be one of the African countries with the highest amount of renewable water resources which give the mini and small hydro power the potential to play a significant role in the development of the national economy, if exploited well.

This project when completed will also build on national priorities, taking into account recommendations made in the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), as well as in the power sector master plan which mentions that government will begin to develop new hydropower generation capacity and assess other energy sources.

The project is also in line with energy access target of NEP, which mentions that 'In line with the MDGs as adopted by the ECOWAS,' the Liberian Government expects to achieve goals such as the forty percent of Liberian citizens living in rural and peri-urban areas and using traditional biomass for cooking shall have access to improved stoves and kerosene or efficient-gas cookers in order to reduce indoor air pollution; that the 30 percent of the urban and peri-urban population shall have access to reliable modern energy services enabling them to meet their basic needs; and the 15 percent of the rural population and 25% of the schools, clinics, and community centers in rural areas shall have access to modern energy services to meet basic needs.

Five accredited Professors from the India Institute of Technology (IITR) Roorkee facilitated the training workshop and they include Dr. Arun Kumar- team leader, Dr. Praveen Saxena, Dr. Girish Chandra Singh Gaur, Dr. Rahul DevGarg and Dr. Rajeshwer PrasadSaini

The 10-day intensive training workshop had about 40 trainees recruited from across relevant government ministries and agencies, government and private owned universities and the engineering society of Liberia.

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