President Bio calls for sustainable partnership to end energy poverty

President Dr Julius Maada Bio on 25th March 2021, called for the formation of a sustainable partnership to address the country’s perennial energy shortage, which he said is costing the government over Le140 Billion in subsidy to provide electricity.

Addressing a roundtable of energy sector stakeholders, he said: “I am concerned about the pressure on Government finances, but I believe that we can collaborate as partners to find a sustainable financial model that will serve us in the long-term. Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, partners and foreign funding sources to support the energy sector have dwindled somewhat. But the need for available and affordable electricity has not diminished”.

With less than 28% of households having access to electricity, President Bio declared that the overarching intent of the meeting is “to discuss and assess the key issues and challenges of the sector, and agree on priority areas for intervention, through a collaborative effort of the government and partners,” in ways that align with the policy direction mapped out by his government.

He said the government has identified priorities for the sector, and that reliable, affordable, accessible, and clean electricity is critical for the development of the country’s economy.

He noted that in addition to supporting his government’s human capital development agenda, the government also recognises that enhanced energy security will support investments, which in turn can create new opportunities and jobs.

“A greater proportion of clean energy in the mix, especially for rural-off-grid areas, also supports climate change resilience. Towards these objectives, our partners have generously supported initiatives to deliver reliable electricity. Permit me to identify a few of these initiatives: The unbundling of vertically integrated NPA to create EDSA, EGTC, and EWRC; the implementation of standard operating procedures and metrics for EDSA with the support of the World Bank Management Contractor.

“The expansion and strengthening of the Freetown distribution network through the World Bank-sponsored Energy Sector Utility Reform Project; the ongoing Bo-Kenema Transmission and Network Rehabilitation Project; funded by FCDO and AfDB; the MCC supported Threshold Program, (2016 – 2021) which introduced and facilitated the Energy Roadmap; the FCDO sponsored flagship Rural Renewable Energy project, which is the gold standard for mini-grid installation and regulation in the sub-region,” he said.

President Bio particularly singled out the launch of the District Headquarter Town Electrification Project, which, with Government funding, is overhauling the distribution network in seven towns that have been without electricity for several decades.

“Bonthe, Matru-Jong, Kambia, Kailahun, Kabala, Moyamba and Pujehun. The generation component and grid connectivity to these towns will be funded through the World Bank’s Enhancing Sierra Leone Energy Access Project.

Country Director for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Matthew Langhenry, urged the government to expand energy access to open opportunities for investments, schools and hospitals.

He encouraged stakeholders to emphasise planning in ways that would help improve development, and assured of the continued support of the MCC and the government of the United States of America.

Finance Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said the government is fully supporting the energy sector, and is providing non-cash subsidies in the form of tax-duty and GST waivers, including the financing of the phase one rural energy development project.

Minister of Energy, Alhaji Kanja Sesay, said the presence of President Bio at the opening of the roundtable discussions shows his commitment to rebuilding the energy sector.

He added that the discussion will focus on priority sector issues, marking ways forward with initiatives that support the requirements of the MCC Compact. “Sierra Leone is a recipient of funds from international donors for the electrification of towns project. The government is committed to building partnerships with private sector players to ease the burden on the government,” Sesay said

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