December 1, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
The World Bank Country Manager has stated at the official opening of a two-day workshop on the regional off-grid electrification project that, Sierra Leone was among nineteen countries that would benefit from a $200 million support to meet the electrification needs of its un-electrified populations under the Lighting Africa Program.
Parminder P.S. Brar, who was in his normal Indian outfit, started off his comments by re-echoing the “fruitful” 55 years partnership the Bank has maintained with Sierra Leone.
He said the $200 million Regional Off-Grid Electrification Project (ROGEP) is expected to help address key barriers to attract private sector participation in promoting off-grid solar electrification in the fifteen ECOWAS member nations and four other countries including Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad and Mauritania.
A release from the World Bank Group stated that the project which would be implemented by the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) would focus on two major work streams.
The first would focus on development of a Regional Market which would attract a budget allocation of about US$60 million, while the second would deal with mitigating Access to Finance barriers for private enterprise.
According to the release, the funds would contribute to the market assessment studies and identification of policy barriers, as well as help to create a unified regional market for solar products in the nineteen project countries by harmonising trade policies and strengthen the countries’ bureau of standards.
“The unelectrified, living mainly in the rural areas of Sierra Leone, usually lack access to energy services, and primarily use small diesel or petrol generators and kerosene lamps for their lighting and energy needs. They typically spend 10 to 30 times more on these poor quality energy sources than those living in urban areas that benefit from grid connections, often with subsidised tariffs,” the release stated.
The release said the standalone off-grid solar now has the potential to significantly transform electricity access in the Sub-Saharan Africa in particular for consumers who are far from the grid network and unlikely to gain access even in the medium term.
The release noted that the pilot stage has kicked-off in Niger and Nigeria to identify suitable mechanisms, adding that the project is expected to take-off after approval by the World Bank’s Board of Director in September, 2018.
Earlier, the Minister of Energy, Ambassador Henry Macauley ,welcomed the project as a laudable target and stated that the solar off-grid project was another milestone in the electrification of the rural setting.
He said the ministry’s aim was to make sure every part of the country is electrified, hence they were fighting to ensure that the standalone solar light which is their flagship project would be developed into mini grid.