Power to Sierra Leone

Discussions were held with stakeholders
A local speaker at the stakeholder consultation in
Bagruwa Chiefdon, Moyamba
Sierra Leone, in West Africa, a country torn by a decade of civil war, has constantly found itself near the bottom of the UN Human Development Index. It suffers from extreme energy poverty with very low levels of consumption of modern energy forms, inadequacy and poor quality of electricity services and dominant reliance on wood fuel sources. Most of the energy production is concentrated in the household sub-sector, where biomass, in the form of fuel wood and charcoal, is used for cooking and kerosene is used for lighting. Traditional biomass accounts for an estimated 87% of total energy use. Modern energy services, electricity, petroleum products, including LPG, and non-biomass renewable, represent only a small percentage of energy used.

Electricity production is considerably below the levels required for socio-economic development. Less than 10% of Sierra Leone’s total population has access to electricity, a figure that is very low by both regional and international standards. Only around 1% of the rural population has access to electricity. Besides, it is characterized by poor investments in generation, transmission, and distribution resulting in very low generating capacity, rising transmission and distribution losses (about 45%), poor revenue collection, and restricted distribution systems in major towns. Whereas the electricity demand nationwide is estimated at 125 MW, the installed capacity is 113 MW and functional capacity is only 52.96 MW including the Bumbuna hydro power project which supplies power to the national capital Freetown. Though there are over 20 hydropower sites that can potentially produce over 1200 MW of electricity, it has not been utilized and currently constitutes only about 56 MW of the total power generation.

The river where the proposed hydro project will be buil
Site of the Small Hydro Power Project in
Moyamba district
The national power generation is mostly diesel-based. A significant part of the country’s income from trade and services is spent on importing fuel, as the country does not have its own fossil fuel resources. The cost of fuel reaching the various scattered generator sets is very high due to poor transport facilities, so that electricity generation becomes very costly. The fuel use is also polluting the environment and contributing to the country’s greenhouse gases emissions. The only viable alternative is to harness the rich renewable energy sources to establish local mini-grids to augment rural electrification in the country.

According to the country’s Power Sector Master Plan (1996), 27 potential hydropower sites with a total capacity of 1,513 MW have been identified. However, except for two sites -- Bumbuna project (total capacity 275 MW) and the envisaged Bekongor project, (total capacity 200 MW), others suffer from water flow rate variations between the wet and dry seasons.

Acceptance of the project involved discussions with district authorities
Stakeholder consultation with district authorities
and community at Moyamba
As part of this initiative, a pilot small hydro project of 10 MW will be developed in the Gban Gbaia River near the Mumana village, Bagruwa Chiefdom in the Moyamba district in the southwestern part of the country. The area is predominately rural. In the absence of any national grid extension, the electricity from this plant will be distributed through the mini grid installation in the district and will cater to -- households in Moyamba town, households in the villages in the vicinity of the mini grid route, small industrial units (which includes industrial growth centres, cassava processing units, fish cold storages, carpentry shops and rice mills, cell phone towers etc), public service establishments (district council office, mini stadium, and other government intuitions, street lighting etc), water pumping station in Moyamba town, health facilities in Moyamba town and four chiefdoms, Njalah University, Schools in the area.

A baseline study undertaken in January 2010 indicated that the agriculture sector is dominated by crop farming, which is mostly done on subsistence basis and employs rudimentary production techniques with the main crops being rice, cassava, potatoes, yam and cocoyam. During the local level stakeholder consultation in the chiefdom and district, it was revealed by the representatives of the farming community that Moyamba district has the distinction of growing the highest quantity of cassava in the country. However, in the absence of any electricity infrastructure, the raw cassava cannot be processed properly and the farmers are unable to reap the benefits. TERI helped UNIDO in the baseline survey, stakeholder consultations and documentation as per GEF (Global Environment Facility) guidelines.

Meeting with stakeholders
Discussions with stakeholders in Moyamba
The proposed project has been conceived as a demonstration activity with consequent benefits of spreading awareness regarding the utility and advantages of small hydro power for productive applications. The project will lead to innovative and concrete experiences towards increased replication of small hydro in Sierra Leone. With the country having reported potential of about 1200 MW SHP capacity similar capacity range SHP projects have potential for replication in the country.

The project is planned for completion in phases with implementation spread over four years and one year of preparation period. The phase I which includes identification, pre-feasibility, socio-economic study and stockholder’s consultations has been completed. In phase II, which is due to start, includes the development of a detailed work plan for the execution of project components, preparation of engineering design and detailed project report for SHP pilot project would be carried out. In addition, it would also see the initiation of institutional capacity building and training for small hydro development. Phase III will focus on the installation and commissioning of pilot SHP project and training and capacity building activities and design of policy and regulatory framework.

Sponsor: UNIDO
Duration: 4 years
  • To demonstrate the viability of small hydro power (SHP) and establish policy guidelines; institutional linkages, responsibility and capacity within the government, the private sector and local community through an integrated approach in harnessing small hydro resources and applied in productive uses.
  • To provide rural economic and social opportunities through access to affordable and reliable energy supplies, which will lead to better load management and operational viability for the small hydro facility.
  • To remove the institutional, technical, policy and economic barriers to the promotion of small hydro power (SHP) for productive applications in Sierra Leone.
  • To reduce GHG emissions from fossil-based power by accelerating the development of small hydro resources.
  • To develop a market-based approach through public-private partnerships for promoting small hydro power-based mini grids to stimulate productive capacities in the Sierra Leone.
  • A 10 MW pilot scale small hydro power-based mini grid project will be set up in the country to demonstrate the feasibility.
  • To build institutional capacity of stakeholders for project planning and implementation.
  • To develop local capacity for operation and maintenance of SHP plants, promote local manufacturing capacity for SHP components and other productive applications of electricity from the small hydro power plant.
Posted on: 29 December 2011  |   Project status: Completed