With Liberia struggling to meet increased demand for electricity despite more than $400 million spent on post war energy restoration programs, the country’s power utility has devised a short term solution as authorities work on an ambitious $500 million project to stem decades of power deficit.
Mount Coffee, the country’s main source of hydroelectric power station was built on the St. Paul River to produce 88megawatt. About $357 million was spent to put it online in 2016. But current amount of energy falls below demand mainly during the dry season, creating the need for importation.
This week LEC said it has booked 50MW capacity for 2024 from CI Energies in anticipation of growth in demand, while at the same time deploying 35MW of solar energy.
The authorities entered a power purchase agreement with CL Energies to import 27MW from La Cote d’Ivoire through the CLSG arrangement.
This contracted capacity from CI Energies does not meet LEC’s peak demand, which currently exceeds 70MW, according to a statement from the power utility.
“Peak demands are periods when the highest energy consumption is experienced and in the case of Liberia, it lasts from 6am to 9am and 6pm to 11pm. During off-peak periods, LEC can meet the energy demand.
“To mitigate the gap created during the peak period, LEC generates additional power though its thermal and hydropower plants. The additional power generated by LEC is approximately 47MW, which provides a combined capacity with CLSG of 74MW.
“However, due to the exceedingly high cost of fuel, LEC has limited the use of its thermal plants to produce more cost reflective energy. The resultant gap, which is minimum, is mitigated through load shedding.”
In the coming rainy season, LEC will not need the full contracted capacity from CI Energies, it said. Why? Most of Liberia has one rainfall season between May and November. The average rainfall ranges more than 4500 mm along the coast to about 2000 mm in the interior, while Monrovia is one of wettest capital cities of the world with the average annual precipitation exceeding 5000 mm, according to the Liberian Hydrological Services.
In order to generate electricity, the Hydrological service explained on its website the water has to move with sufficient speed and volume to turn a device called a turbine, which in turn rotates a generator to generate electricity.
Approximately, ten liters of water per second falling ten meters can generate one kilowatt of electricity which could power some 5 LCD TV sets.
$550 Million New Hydro Project
Liberia aims to triple the capacity of its national grid to nearly 300 megawatt beyond the existing 88MW as it accelerates plans for a new hydro power station.
The authorities have agreed a $96 million financing agreement for an additional two more units at Mt Coffee and a solar plant, Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah said recently in Monrovia.
“This financing will result in an additional 62 MW of power being added to the existing 88 MW at Mt Coffee.
“Preparations have already started to mobilize an additional $550 million for the development of St Paul 2 Hydro power station that will add another 148 MW to Liberia’s national grid.”
In February, Liberia was amongst four West African countries that signed the World Bank’s multimillion-dollar renewable energy project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase electricity access to millions of consumers.
Authorities from the benefiting countries Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo approved the financial agreement for the Bank’s $311 million Regional Emergency Solar Power Intervention Project Wednesday in Freetown.
West Africa has one of the lowest electrification rates, with 220 million people living without access, coupled with some of the highest electricity costs in Sub-Saharan Africa. Access to electricity (% of population) in Liberia is estimated at 27.53. Post war efforts to revive the hydropower plant is still wanting as the country continue to suffer power deficit.
Writes Festus Poquie