Liberia – Solar Energy Agenda

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The government commits to new solar farms as uncertainties around oil prompts a re-examination of energy policy.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the financing and cooperation in construction of a new 10 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant in the capital Monrovia, was signed by Gigawatt Global Cooperatief U.A.

The signing of the MoU took place during the meeting of the Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations (UN) on September 23rd. Liberian Foreign Affairs Minister Marjon Kamara said that energy is one of the country’s top priorities.

Project Coordinator, Remy Reinstein indicated that besides the 10 megawatts (MW) to be built in Monrovia, an additional 30MW would be included in other parts of the country. According to reports the government will assist by securing the land for the new facility as part of the National Electrification Plan.

Gigawatt Global Cooperatief U.A. is a US, Dutch and Israeli renewable energy company, and delivered the first utility-scale solar plant in Rwanda, supplying 6% of the country’s electiricty needs.  The company has also recently signed a 135MW project in Nigeria, expected to be the largest solar plant in Africa, reported the Daily Observer

Around the world many campaigners and activists are urging a shift away from fossil fuels; in Liberia the main sources of electricity are private and the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) rely on diesel fuel generators.

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However some have said that the global drop in oil prices means that a move towards renewables is less appealing for investors, although others stress the unpredictability of the oil market and climate change mean that oil-based sources of energy are unsustainable.

One Liberian environmentalist, Silas Siakor, said, “given the level of bad governance, given the level of the breakdown of the fabric of our Liberian society, if we decided to engage in the oil sector, the possibility of causing a lot of damages is way too high that it raises the question of the sensibleness to do that.”

The Liberian oil sector is currently reeling from the announcement that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) was bankrupt, leading to international firms such as Chevron and Anadarko taking oil blocks off the coast.

There are also other obstacles to the high cost of solar technology; the World Food Program (WFP) said that 64% of Liberians live below the ‘poverty line’ and as many as 1.3m in extreme poverty; the technology itself both on an industrial and a household level is often expensive,  reported Front Page Africa.

However earlier this year the World Bank, approved a new financing agreement of US$27 million to increase access to affordable and reliable electricity and to foster the use of renewable energy sources in Liberia. The Liberia Renewable Energy Access Project (LIRENAP) seeks to establish a mini hydropower plant to benefit about 50,000 people, as well as small businesses, associations and public institutions in Lofa County.

Also, in August Liberia and Ghana agreed to cooperate in the power sector; the Ghanaian leader claimed that Liberia could benefit from Ghanaian technical expertise in expanding electricity supply throughout the country, reported Liberia News Agency.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Liberia – The Tide Turns Against The Biggest Slum
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp.21346C.

POWER
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21334C–21336C.

OIL/GAS: Liberia
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp.21188B–21190C.

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