Liberia has inaugurated a new hydropower plant estimated at US$357 million more than 20 years after the Mount Coffee Hydro, the only in the country, was devastated during the civil war.
Thursday’s (December 15, 2016) inauguration graced by foreign partners and members of the diplomatic corps fulfilled President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s campaign promise, “Small light today; big light tomorrow.”
She made the promise during the 2005 elections that power would have been restored in three months, perhaps seriously underestimating then the depth of destruction done to the hydro by ragtag rebel forces.
However, the Liberian leader turned on the first diesel power generator in her first year in office on July 26, Independence Day in 2006, while feasibility studies were underway to restore the Mount Coffee Hydro.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony Thursday in Louisiana, outside Monrovia President Sirleaf called on the Liberia Electricity Corporation or LEC not to limit supply of electricity to the capital or Montserrado County alone, but to serve citizens in other counties.
While commissioning the first turbine at the reconstructed Mount Coffee Hydrowpower Plant, President Sirleaf recalled her first inaugural message in 2006 in which she pledged to restore electricity to Liberia.
As at now, she said access is a key problem because the LEC has not yet completed the entire distribution and transmission network that is expected to begin early next year.
The President recalled that the Hydro was constructed by late 18th President Williams V. S. Tubman, and reconstructed by her administration, which clearly points out that, government is continuity; suggesting that projects she doesn’t complete before leaving office in 2018, the next government has a responsibility to finish them.
The first construction of the Mt. Coffee Hydropower was completed in 1966 with an installed capacity of 30 megawatts commissioned from two 15 megawatt turbines. Subsequently in 1974, additional 34 mega- watts were added to increase the capacity to 64 megawatts.
Following the restoration of peace in Liberia, rehabilitation of Mt. Coffee was identified as a critical path to development effort led by the Sirleaf Administration. In 2011, the Government of Liberia requested financing for the project from the Governments of Norway and Germany, and the European Investment Bank, respectively.
Today an estimated four percent of Liberians have access to the national electricity grid with the tariff amongst the highest in the world due largely to a reliance on diesel generation.
Former United States Ambassador to Liberia, now Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Linda Thomas Greenfield said with the rehabilitation of Mt. Coffee Liberia is one step closer to realizing that dream, and one step closer to providing kids with electricity in their homes as well as opportunity the country’s next generation deserves.
The U. S. Envoy said when she reflects as former Ambassador here, she can remember seeing young kids studying outside under streetlights, and it has taken a lot of hard work to reach where it is today, attributing the success to team effort.
By Bridgett Milton-Editing by Jonathan Browne