Energy Minister wants LEC privatized
By Kruah Thompson
With reliance on the national policy of 2009, the Minister of Mines and Energy recommends the commercialization of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) for the greater good of the public.
According to Minister Gesler E. Murray, it is appropriate to have a state-owned enterprise (SOE) to manage the power generation and transmission authority (LEGTA) considering future growth in the energy sector.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, September 21, 2021, at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism’s regular briefing on Capitol Hill, Minister Murray disclosed the power systems of Liberia should be subject to privatization under the policy and regulatory framework of the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the independent regulatory framework under the Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission (LERC), adding that this will bridge the daunting challenges currently faced by the LEC.
The Minister reiterates that privatization of the electricity distribution network system is an option that is worth exploring in the face of the reality that electricity distribution is one of the most challenging aspects in making a power utility commercially viable.
He expresses a conviction that this will help to alleviate solvency faced by the LEC which is experiencing a negative cash flow regime.
“Now that the Liberia electricity regulation is fully flagged under this government with support from the Millennium Challenge Account Liberia (MCAL) there is no better time to encourage private sector participation in our energy sector than now.”
Meanwhile, he explained the 2009 national energy policy has several statement purposes, adding that statement purpose #1 of the NEP strongly recommends “Equal participation of the private sector in the development of Liberia’s energy sector.”
Minister Murray also emphasizes that with his ministry having statutory oversight responsibility on the energy sector, and with the quest to revamp the sector as per the government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, there is a need to establish a fast-track court for power theft that will timely prosecute alleged power theft culprits and perpetrators.
He additionally recommends the formation of a task force for power theft that should incorporate the Ministries of Mines and Energy, Justice, Finance and Development Planning, and the Liberia Electricity Corporation to help decentralize the LEC customer service in communities that will timely respond to technical and commercial needs of customers on the national grid.
The energy minister encourages participation of private sector investment in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity across Liberia.
He notes that despite the passage of the power theft Act by the government, illegal connections on the electricity grid are still a menace, while the electricity access rate in Liberia is very low, at about 12 percent and the reliability of the distribution system on the national grid is still a big challenge.
United States Ambassador to Monrovia, Michael McCarthy recently described power theft in Monrovia as one of the greatest threats to Liberia’s development.
Addressing a news conference Tuesday this week, Ambassador McCarthy noted that by contributing to LEC’s commercial losses, power theft prevents the corporation from conducting preventive maintenance and installing new connections, which also raises the price of electricity for Liberians one of highest tariffs in the world.
The U.S. Envoy called on the Management of the LEC to take steps toward addressing power theft, including increased arrests for those violating the law, and commitments from officials ensuring investigations, prosecutions, and other disciplinary actions proceed without interference. Editing by Jonathan Browne