April 18, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Vice President of Sierra Leone, Victor Bockarie Foh, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Department for International Development (DFID), have last Tuesday 11th April, 2017, commissioned a six kilowatts solar energy at Luvema town in the Kandu Lekpeama chiefdom, Kenema district, eastern Sierra Leone.
It could be recalled that since the beginning of April, 2017, UNOPS and the Ministry of Energy have been commissioning solar energy installation at Community Health Centres (CHCs) in Kambia and Koinadugu in the north and Kenema district in the eastern region of Sierra Leone. The fund for the project, which was provided by DFID, was over thirty-four million Pounds Sterling (£34.5m).
In his statement, VP Foh said even though there were challenges to take development to every corner of the country, the UK government has taken a bold step to bringing solar energy to rural communities.
He acknowledged that the British were the country’s colonial masters and that over the years; they have been supporting the country in diverse ways.
“We are appealing to DFID to extend the solar mini grids under the Rural Renewable Energy Project (RREP) from 50 to 149, so that Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s dream to ensure that all chiefdoms enjoy electricity becomes a reality,” he said.
He urged beneficiaries to take proper care of the facility by regularly conducting maintenance, adding that when the batteries would be destroyed in the future, people should be able to replace it instead of going to DFID.
British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Guy Warrington, said the project was funded by the United Kingdom (UK) government, and that they were proud to supporting Sierra Leone, which is the third largest recipient of UK support.
“I am delighted for the support U.K. aid is giving to Sierra Leone. It is a 34.5 million Pounds project gears towards improving rural electrification in support of the government of Sierra Leone,” he stated.
He disclosed that to improve energy access to rural communities was part of the 420 million Pounds commitment made by the U.K. people to the post Ebola recovery, reiterating that Sierra Leone was the first country to sign an Energy Africa Compact with the U.K.
Minister of Energy, Henry Macauley, said the project was in response to Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s commitment to increasing the number of solar energy supply to rural communities.
“After the completion of this phase one, we will incorporate institutions such as schools, among others. The current project will facilitate healthy living of the people because all the drugs would be cooled. Children would be able to study at night and there will be safer deliveries of pregnant women,” he said.
UNOPS Country Manager, Nick Gardener, said the project would run for four years and that it would create a platform for the provision of electricity to rural communities. He added that after solar energy has been installed at 50 CHCs, 50 communities would then benefit from the same facilities, and that a total of five hundred thousand (500,000) people in rural communities will experience energy supply.
“Institutions and individual homes will be connected in rural communities. The solar energy will supply electricity for 24 hours a day. It does not require power supply but it should be properly handled. It’s a six kilowatts pack, stand-alone- system,” he said.
Community Health Officer (CHO), Francis Lebbie, expressed his appreciation to the government, DFID and UNOPS for providing such important facility for them.