President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says she's extremely pleased with the level of work being done on the construction and installation of three major heavy fuel oil (HFO) power plants at the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) Bushrod Island.
The HFO power plants include the Government of Liberia 18 megawatt HFO power plant, the Japanese Government's 10 megawatt power plant project and the World Bank sponsored 10 megawatt power plant simultaneously being constructed at the Bushrod Island.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader was speaking during an inspection of work being done at the LEC Bushrod Island on Monday, June 16.
She said she was delighted at seeing some of the things that her government has been working on for the past several months to enable Liberians within Monrovia and its environs get connected to the electricity grid, noting that all the three projects are now in progress.
"As you heard them say," President Sirleaf continued, " between 12 and 15 months, we will have much more power to give to our people and that will reduce the cost; adding that sometimes the process takes longer than Government wants; but she is pleased at the level of progress. "As we've always said 'small light today, big light tomorrow' though they didn't believe it," she pointed out.
An enthusiastic welcome awaited President Sirleaf when she arrived at the LEC Bushrod Island premises, where she was met on arrival by the chairman of the Board of Directors of the LEC, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, chief executive officer, Joseph Mayah, senior management team, staff and contractors.
The Board chairman, Cllr. Sannoh briefed President Sirleaf on the level of progress on the construction of three major power plants and confirmed that the Japanese 10 megawatt power plant is expected to be completed in December 2014. "All of them are moving on schedule. By the time the construction of the heavy fuel tanks and the substations are completed, we will be able to improve connectivity to about 30 to 40,000 new customers, thereby reducing the cost on current customers by between 30 to 40 percent," Cllr. Sannoh explained.
He said the LEC invited President Sirleaf to see the level of progress being made as it relates to rehabilitating the energy sector; not only signing contracts and no action.
"We are trying very hard to meet the December 15 deadline because all of this is working simultaneously with what is happening at the Mount Coffee hydro plant," he said, assuring the Liberian leader that by the time the Mount Coffee hydro plant is up and functioning, all the power plants under construction at the Bushrod Island will be fully functional whereby increasing customers and reducing substantially the cost customers pay for electricity.
For his part, the LEC chief executive officer, Joseph Mayah, assured the Liberian leader that when the three power plants are up and fully functioning, it would provide affordable electricity to all those connected to the grid.
On challenges, Mr. Mayah said fuel delivery to the plant will be a challenge as LEC does not have the financial resources to provide the initial amount of US$7 million for HFO to run the plant for the first quarter of its operations when it becomes functional and appealed to government to subsidize the process.
"As a Plan "B", LPRC and Cornex are building their facilities and the first consignment of HFO will be here in June (this month) and then we will need to get a temporary permit from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to truck the fuel here while we complete our tanks," he said, adding that this is the critical issue that LEC has to resolve with the EPA.
In response, President Sirleaf said she would like to see a public corporation act as a corporation. She suggested that the LEC management do a business plan for the next three years showing how much it will cost to run the power plants per month, how much the corporation will generate per month, and so forth. "If we find that as you're growing and expanding and you cannot generate enough money to cover your cost, then government can come in with a subsidy. We will know exactly what that subsidy is. But for a public corporation to come out and say we need US$7 million, or US$10 million, No," she said.
Cllr. Sannoh informed the Liberian leader that the LEC management was now working to ensure that the corporation becomes viable and sustainable over time.