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Liberia meets partners over Mount Coffee

The Liberian government and its donor partners including the US, Germany, Norway, and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have met in Monrovia to give update on the operations of Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, with report that work on the project is now probably 98 percent completed.

At the meeting held at Mamba Point Hotel Tuesday, 12 December, authorities here say the quarterly meeting is intended to make sure that partners are given the confidence that everything is being implemented correctly and sustained on a long term basis.

Addressing the gathering of donors and Liberian officials, President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf expressed thanks to partners on behalf of the people of Liberia for the reactivation of the hydro plant, disclosing to them that all four of the turbines at the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant are now working.

Mrs. Sirleaf, however, says based on experience, in the dry season here water at the hydro dries up and then the hydro stops or at least some of the turbines won’t work. But she notes that government would be watching to see, acknowledging that climate change has made difference.

The President says government has backups in [Heavy Fuel Oil] HFOs that will help during the dry season to fuel the grid just in case [there is water problem]. She says it leads government to the need for being able to do a feasibility study of a river that would enable “us” to have a dam that will ensure that the hydro continues to function.

President Sirleaf urges all partners to do what is necessary to get the feasibility study going so that there can be assurance in the future that the hydro meets the objective that all the partners want, saying there is funding for the study.

She also speaks of some issues relating to government’s own contribution in which it should have been depositing $350,000 into [escrow] account, but notes that this has not been done.

Mrs. Sirleaf notes that government is looking into that now, and it knows that it has obligation to the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) for the service that has been rendered for keeping the lights going in ministries and agencies.

She says the key to the project is management, urging LEC to operate as a corporation, be able to do its financial plans in such a way that it should be able to bill the government for services rendered and be able to collect its bills.

“I know there are certain difficulties here like power theft that interferes with their management efficiency; but those are things that need to be planned by the management,” she notes. She urges the new management to try harder on that.

Minister of State Without Portfolio Dr. Clarence Moniba says several projects are in place right now, citing plans to connect 27,000 people in Bomi County, the Monrovia Consolidation that intends to connect 38,000, the ELWA Junction to RIA project and another project leading to Kakata which is connecting about 17,000 to put electricity in Kakata by February.

Dr. Moniba adds that government is slowly expanding from the National Grid which extends from Mount Coffee. Concerning the $350,000 commitment earlier spoken of by President Sirleaf, Dr. Moniba says it is a monthly commitment that government is supposed to meet for running a hydro of $350m asset.

He says there are Europeans who are training Liberians to be able to run the hydro, but up until Liberians are trained enough to be able to do that, “we have to get the funds in country” so that it can be sustainable.

Minister Moniba says the meeting with the partners is held to give donors confidence that government is doing the right thing, to let them know that the money sent here is being used effectively, concluding that the essence of the meeting is just to make sure that Mount Coffee is here and sustainable to be able to last long for the Liberian people.

By Winston W. Parley

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