Western Area still struggles with 36.5 megawatts
January 18, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Even though the World Bank Group in July 2016 approved a huge sum of one hundred and thirty-eight million United States Dollars (US$138) as support for 57 megawatts heavy fuel oil green-field thermal power plant in the Western Area, the Ministry of Energy and its utility companies-Electricity Generation and Transmission Company (EGTC) and the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) are currently struggling with only 16.5 megawatts electricity supply.
It could be recalled that in a recent conference organised by the Sierra Leone Institution of Engineers (SLIE), the Acting Director General of EGTC, Engineer Scot Garvey told journalists that Western Area needs 200 megawatts electricity supply but that they were currently generating 20 megawatts from Bumbuna Hydro plant and 16.5 from the power stations in Freetown.
A release dated July 14, 2016 stated that, “the World Bank Group today approved US$138 million to boost electricity generation and supply in Freetown and its environs. The Western Area Power Generation Project supports the development of a 57MW heavy fuel oil green-field thermal power plant in Sierra Leone and is jointly supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) – all members of the World Bank Group.”
“The joint engagement of the World Bank Group will serve as an important signal to the private sector that the country is ready for investments even as it continues to recover from the Ebola epidemic in the context of a fragile economy. We recognize the critical importance of sufficient and reliable electricity to support economic activities and job creation, and we welcome the increased access to energy to households and businesses in Freetown under the operation. We now look forward to successful implementation of the project,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Sierra Leone in that release.
Since the start of the New Year, many communities in the Western Area have been going days without electricity supply. Some communities, especially those in the east end of Freetown, Hastings, Waterloo, and others in the Freetown peninsula, have been getting interrupted electricity supply.
An investigation tour was conducted by this reporter in some of these communities. The people’s responses to the current electricity situation in the country left a lot of doubt as to whether funds received from the World Bank Group were used for the right purpose.
Malcolm Turay, a civil servant at Thunder Hill, said his community has gone three days without electricity supply, noting that sometimes they receive low voltage, which cannot even switch on their bulb and other electrical appliances.
“We always expect poor electricity supply during the dry season. We have heard a lot of reports that the government has brought in so many machines to salvage the situation but it remains the same,” he said.
At England Ville community ,Goderich, James Smalle said his community has been facing interrupted electricity supply since the beginning of the new year, adding that sometimes his children found it difficult to study at night because of the lack of power supply.
The poor electricity condition in the Western Area does not only affect ordinary residents but also petty traders who depend on cooling locally made soft drinks to make ends meet.
Agnes Caulker, a trader at Portee said she now has to spend most of the proceeds of her business to buy fuel for a generator to cool her drinks and water for sale. She added that because of the hot atmosphere, many people will not buy drinks and water if they are not cooled.
“Imagine my brother; I spend most of the proceeds from this petty trading on fuel. Of course you are aware that the price of fuel has gone up and that’s not easy for us at all.
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If EDSA would have been giving us adequate electricity supply, I wouldn’t have been bordering on buying fuel but this is the situation we found ourselves,” she said.
Many Sierra Leoneans are hoping to have the electricity situation in the country, especially the Western Area, addressed soonest so as to boost their economic growth.