Before the civil war, the total installed generating capacity of power was roughly 182 MW (64 MW hydropower, 68 MW gas turbines, 40 MW heavy fuel oil, 10 MW medium speed diesel), 98% of which was located around Monrovia.
Ten years since it assumed the helm of power, the Unity Party-led government has only managed to restore 22 MW of diesel-generated power of which about 16 MW are available at any given point. The government says it has been working to ensure that the power deficit is addressed through a sustainable and well thought-out process, leading to the reconstruction of the Mount Coffee Hydro and construction of Heavy Fuel Diesel power plants.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her State of the Nation address delivered January 25 has for the third time in succession assured the Liberian people that they should expect their long awaited ‘big light’ to come on by December this year as the government works tirelessly to ensure the Mount Coffee Hydro is ready to provide power by December 2016.
In her last three “State of the Nation” addresses, President Johnson-Sirleaf highlighted the readiness of the power plant to provide electricity to the Liberian people.
“Today, I am pleased to announce that the first 10 Mega Watts HFO power is currently brought into service. In fact, this is the electricity being supplied to you Legislators as I speak. This new plant adds to the existing capacity which is based on diesel fuel generators which we intend to convert to alternative uses. This will result in increased stability delivered to 33,000 users which include over 1,000 connections in West Point, one of our economically-depressed communities,” she said.
“By the end of March, an additional 18Mw financed by this Government will be added. By June an additional 10Mw will come on line. And in December the long awaited Mount Coffee comes alive. We will thus have installed a capacity of 126 Mega Watts. By implementing the transmission and distributions programs and consolidation of the grid in Monrovia, there will be extension of power to other counties such as Margibi, Bomi, and Cape Mount over the next two years,” she added.
However, critics of the government have been vocal on the issue, insisting it has wasted time and resources figuring how to address the energy problem with very little to show over 10 years.
Even the aforementioned 10 megawatts HFO electricity by president Sirleaf, has met up with huge criticisms from some Liberians, who feel frustrated that the available 10Mws do not even cover half of Monrovia, adding, they, the residents of Bushrod Island and a close neighbor to the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), do not have access to light poles not to mention having electricity in their various homes.
“What the president said about the current situation is not true, you know up to now some of us do not have current in our homes? No poles in the first place,” said Blamo Thomas, a resident of Point Four on the Bushrod Island.
President Sirleaf also flagged the implementation of the West African Power pool CSLG project which would start July this year and would help in the revamping of the cross borders trade of electricity between the bordering countries Liberia and Serra Leone, adding it would result in cheaper electricity tariffs.
“My plan is to participate in the ECOWAS cross border trade of electricity which will take power from Yekepa, to Buchanan; and then on to the Sierra Leonean border. This will result in significantly cheaper tariffs,” the Liberian Chief Executive said.
In May 2012, the Mt. Coffee Hydropower Rehabilitation Project was initiated with a series of surveying and engineering assessments of the feasibility of revitalizing the plant.
This work culminated with the signing of a contract in April 2013 with a Norwegian company (Norplan AS) and a German company (Fichtner GmbH). According to the Project Implementation Unit, the project has already signed four contracts with Voith Hydro, Dawnus International Limited, Hydraulic Steelworks and auxiliary system with Andritz Hydro and National Contracting Company Limited, a Saudi Arabian company.
These firms were contracted separately to facilitate the construction of the generating equipment, the initiation and completion of enabling works and the fabrication of hydraulic Steelworks and Auxiliary Systems amongst others. But as with other sectors, the Ebola virus had its toll, racking up millions of dollars in cost overrun on a project already delayed by a year.
It can be recalled in July 1990 rebel forces under the command of Charles Taylor seized the dam and shut off power and water supply to Monrovia. During the civil war, the project’s intake dam was destroyed on one end while the rest received other damages. Other parts of the facilities were looted and destroyed in later years of the conflict. Beginning in early 2005, proposals were made to repair the facility and restore power, including a proposal by China.