Even as we celebrate the life of the Greatest of All Times, the legendary footballer Diego Maradona, we took a look at the Power situation in Sierra Leone. Below are some of the key guidelines discussed below:
- The Power Problem
- Mini- Grid System
- The Turkish Power ship
The Power Problem
The Sierra Leone society and economy has become accustomed to the constant interruption in electricity flow, the power grid that was supposed to provide electricity has not been able to meet demand and its infrastructure is already aging and increasingly outdated. The reliability and stability of any electrical power grid are indispensable towards the seamless running of industries, homes and businesses. The country’s traditional electric power grid connected large central generating stations (most notably bumbuna) through a high voltage (HV) transmission system to a distribution system that directly fed customer demand. This system has been impaired by constant power outage, inefficient systems, power loss or power not supplied and distance from production sites to the final consumers seem to be the determinant factors.
Over time we have realized and come to the conclusion the current grid systems are too prone to failures to withstand the current and projected energy demand. Most Industries and businesses rely on diesel generators to meet their energy needs as load shedding has not helped, this has been a major issue that has overshadowed the country’s drive towards universal energy access and a resilient grid.
Mini- Grid System
The challenges faced by the current grid system calls for a new way to produce, store, manage, and distribute electricity to consumers. Many emerging systems have shown an unprecedented success rate in making universal energy access a milestone not far from reach. The most often discussed been the “Mini Grid System”. The mini-grid system is a set of small-scale electricity generators and possibly energy storage systems interconnected to a distribution network that supplies electricity to a small, localized group of customers and operates independently from the national transmission grid. The Mini-grid system will help Sierra Leone in meeting universal energy access using a more cost effective way.
The distance of rural communities to the national grid calls for energy to be generated and consumed where it is needed. This will be ideal in solving the 45% of energy lost during transmission in the country. The country currently has a national electrification rate of only 13%. With two thirds of the population living in urban areas, and the 99% living in rural areas and far from the national grid, mini grid would be an ideal scalable option in making energy accessible in those areas that have been struggling to access energy. This system provides a huge opportunity for energy access to be given in rural areas around Sierra Leone who have been waiting to be connected to a national grid that has been malfunctioning, inefficient and unable to meet demand.
The Turkish Power ship
There was an 11% increase in energy demand in the country from early 2018 to mid 2019, and in solving this problem the government invested in the Turkish Karpower ship to provide energy through two of its ships in Freetown. The energy produced was transmitted through the national grid system operated by EDSA, this decision resulted in high revenue losses from tax and subsidies, and in recovering some funds the government increased electricity tariffs on the consumers. The economic situation in the country makes this solution more suitable.
Microgrids have been used in military communities that are far from the mainlands, and these systems have been reliable and economic solutions in such kinds of communities (campuses, hospitals, factories etc). With most of the country’s population in rural areas, the Minigrid model would provide resilience, efficiency and a cost-effective solution to the current energy challenge faced in such areas. This off-grid electrification model will be critical in the country’s drive to reach a 60% renewable energy access by 2030.
The current energy systems in the country have been faced with many interesting challenges. Stakeholders in the sector should try to understand these challenges, develop strategies and innovative solutions to these challenges. The energy transition process provides an exciting opportunity for all stakeholders (Government, Entrepreneurs and Partners) to utilize mini-grid systems in achieving universal energy access access and a resilient grid.
Jeremiah Thoronka is an Experienced Renewable energy entrepreneur and scholar with a demonstrated history of working as an Author and Entrepreneur in the sector. As an Entrepreneur, Jeremiah used his skills in science to develop Optim Energy, an innovative piezoelectric device that harnesses energy from heat, vibrations and weather, all which naturally occur in the environment, to create affordable, accessible and clean power in his community.