President Julius Maada Bio’s State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday 18th May 2021 where he addressed the nation on his achievements and plans has created heated debates in the country especially on the energy sector.
Sierra Leoneans have mixed feelings on Bio’s statement, especially when he mentioned energy sufficiency in Freetown.
It is now approaching four years since President Bio led the SLPP into governance, and in-spite ofhis promises on electricity, the nation is still experiencing epileptic electricity supply, even in the capital Freetown, which President Bio said is enjoying stable electricity supply.
Most of the people’s reactions are negative,asthey blamed authorities,especially political appointees, for failure to give credible information to the president on the reality of thecapacity and ability of the energy sector.
The people in the main consider the president’s electricity claim as deceptive and provocative. For example, Bo and Kenema, the party’s stronghold,are still engulfed in perpetual darkness; the capital also enjoys intermittent electricity supply.
As it stands, the people are still struggling to acquire meters in spite of their huge cost. Even after paying for them, it takes over three months or more before the meters are delivered to customers.
At the State Opening,President Bio said his government sees vigorous energy sector reform as critical to economic growth, health, and social well-being, going as far as boasting that more households are now connected to the grid than in 2018.
President Bio said his government has increased electricity generation and transmission capacity over the last year, adding: “We will augment generation capacity with 87 megawatts of confirmed investment in the sector and we will soon commission a 6 megawatt solar park in Newton.”
He said electricity supply has been restored to Lunsar, adding that 39 communities are to be electrified along the CLSG/West Africa Power Pool’s 225kV transmission network including Zimmi and Potoru in the south; Kangama Gorahun and Njaiama Nimikoro to the east; and Masingbi, Bumbuna, Matotoka, Kamalo, Kamakwie, Binkolo, and Fadugu to the north.
According to Bio, government is now generating sufficient electricity in Freetown, although his government inherited a defective and decadent transmission and distribution system that is incapable of evacuating and transmitting the power that is generated.
“This is made worse by the deliberate vandalisation by ill-motivated citizens of transformers and installed equipment.”
Citizens who are engaged in such vandalisation activities will face the full force of the law, he said.“With support from the World Bank, my government is currently addressing the perennial problem of load-shedding and massive inefficiencies in power evacuation and distribution in Freetown by expanding or upgrading the 33 kV / 11 kV grid in Freetown.”
Bio continued that the distribution transformers and lines are also being installed in 33 un-served communities including a vendor supply process for electricity meters that means that meters are now easily available.
“In collaboration with partners, we have commissioned 50 rural mini-grids and 4 smaller pilot systems in 54 chiefdoms with 8,000 household connections in beneficiary communities, and another 44 mini-grids are being developed in 44 chiefdoms.”
He promised that planning and rural electrification units have been set up to supervise rural electrification activities and develop regulation and cost-reflective tariffs.
President Bio went further that the electrification of seven district towns including Kabala, Kambia, Moyamba, Kailahun, Pujehun, Bonthe and Mattru Jong is well underway; adding that Phase II expansion of the Bumbuna Hydroelectric dam is also in progress.
The president also disclosed thathis government will pursue its overall policy objective of providing adequate, affordable and sustainable power supply nationwide.
The SLPP’s 2018 manifesto on energy stated that improving energy supply is an imperative for any meaningful development and poverty reduction.
Bio said in the New Direction, the SLPP government’s objective will be to provide energy in sufficient quantities to all regions of the country to permit the continuous realisation of the developmental goals of industry and the general population.
The manifesto continued that specific actions of the New Direction Government are to restore electricity supply to all district capitals, going further that it would initiate a rural electrification programme that would supply electricity to all towns with population exceeding 20,000.