August 1, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has on last Friday commissioned a mini grid at Conakry Dee, Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom in the Port Loko district, northern Sierra Leone.
The UKAID Rural Renewable Energy Project (RREP) was implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
President Koroma, in his keynote address, said the commissioning of the mini grid in was an aspect of the RREP project, stating that his government has done 50 mini grids and hopes to do another 50 by 2020.
“No country or community will develop without sufficient energy, because all the essential services will never be effectively delivered without electricity. Previously, Freetown was referred to as the darkest capital but today even though we have not yet achieved our goal of energy sufficiency, we have provided huge megawatts that are available to many cities and rural communities in Sierra Leone. We have the urge that we should develop this country at all cost,” he said.
President Koroma said the RREP project was mainly supported by the British Government, through the Department for International Development (DFID), which engaged the Ministry of Energy and related ministries for implementation.
He boasted that it is an ambitious project which they believe will positively impact the lives of those in rural communities.
He revealed that 50 health centres in the country have gained access to energy through the project, and that Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) can now preserve drugs and provide comfort to patients.
He said the 50 additional mini grids would have to provide more five megawatts.
“There are other projects that supply energy through a solar system in other communities,” he revealed.
However, President Koroma categorically told beneficiaries that, besides the schools, health centres, the service is not free for communities, adding that experts have told him that what people pay for solar energy is six times cheaper than what they pay for energy emanating from thermal plant.
He urged communities to provide security for the equipment of the mini grids in order to ensure its sustainability.
UNOPS Country Director, Sonya Verga, said, “We are now more than ever serving the sustainable energy system which is crucial for human livelihood.
She said before the commencement of the project, access to electricity remains a challenge in rural areas, despite the potential offered by various sources of renewable energy.
“It’s against the back drop that the Ministry of Energy and DFID engaged UNOPS to support the implementation of the RREP project under the President’s Recovery Priorities,” she said.
She said the RREP project supports the government in creating an enabling environment for the development of sustainable mini grid markets across Sierra Leone.
“As of today, 50 stand-alone six kilowatts systems have been installed, electrifying PHUs in twelve districts. Between 16 and 36 kilowatts to connect other public institutions and serve households in those communities,” she said.
DFID Head of Office, Sally Taylor, said UK government has been assisting in providing drugs to health facilities and appreciates government effort in making sure that they overhaul the drug supply chain.
She said she was happy to be part of the government recovery project and they were able to work and support it especially by providing funds for rural and PHUs’ electrification.
“We want to foster development and bring tangible improvements to people’s lives. I want to assure you of UK’s support to Sierra Leone’s development and prosperity,” she said.
Minister of Energy, Ambassador Henry Macauley, said it’s the responsibility of government to always provide electricity to all citizens, which was why President Koroma ordered him to generate one thousand (1000) megawatts electricity.
He said the energy revolution that was launched in May 2016 is very much alive and because of that, “we will soon forget about poverty alleviation and now looking forward to wealth creation.
He said the 50 mini grids project around the country is the largest in the world.
“This light that we have got here at Conakry Dee is not only to play television at home but to use it to improve yourselves by doing businesses that can enhance your livelihood,” he told the people, urging them to practise energy efficiency.