Sierra Leone (2012)

Degree of reliance on imported energy: 

There are no indigenous sources of coal or natural gas. There is an oil refinery in Freetown, the Sierra Leone Petroleum Refining Company Limited, which had a capacity of 10,000 bpd. The refinery has not been operational for a number of years, and all petroleum products are currently imported. The Government is currently seeking international investors for the re-commissioning of the refinery. Offshore oil exploration has been undertaken in recent years, however, current finds are inconclusive, with exploratory wells finding hydrocarbons, but further assessment being deemed necessary before economic feasibility can truly be ascertained. Total oil imports in 2009 were estimated at 4,945 bbl/day. The country is entirely self-sufficient in terms of its biomass supply.

Main sources of Energy: 

Total installed electricity capacity (2008): 52 MW
Thermal: 93.3%
Hydroelectric: 7.7%

Total primary energy supply (2008): 2,721 ktoe
Biomass: 84%
Oil and Oil Products: 15.9%
Hydroelectric: ~0.1%

Electricity production is primarily petroleum fuelled, all of which is imported. In the western region, electricity is generated at the Kingtom and Blackhall Road oil-fired thermal plants. In the Bo and Kenema regions, there is also electrification tied to the mining industry, from thermal plants and a hydropower plant. Electricity generation in 2008 totalled 63.0 GWh, of which 20.0 GWh was generated from renewable resources. 

Fuel wood and charcoal are the major renewable biomass energy forms used in Sierra Leone’s households for cooking. Roughly 30% of harvested wood is used for charcoal production. The vast majority of households still use traditional biomass fuels for their domestic energy needs.


Sierra Leone

Extent of the network: 

Under the current electricity capacity constraints, only 2% of households or 40,000 customers (mostly in or near Freetown) have access to electricity. The majority of the interior does not have access to electricity, and the country's four major cities consume 90% of the available electricity. The transmission and distribution network in the country is primarily consisted of the Freetown system and its surroundings, with the only other major provincial grid servicing Bo-Kenema.

Capacity concerns: 

Electricity generation in the country has traditionally fallen far short of demand. The commissioning of the Bumbuna hydroelectric station in 2009 raised country-wide generation to approximately 50 MW, however, power demand for the country is regularly in the region of 300 – 500 MW. In addition, as of 2009, the distribution networks of the country could not support the full generation of the country’s systems. In addition, the large thermal plant at Kingtom was, as of 2009, barely functional, and severe capital problems at the national utility, NPA, hindered the purchasing of both spare parts and additional fuel for the plant. This energy situation is a serious impediment to Sierra Leone’s economic growth, particularly in the industrial and service sectors. Furthermore, the country is also one of a small number in West Africa with some of the highest costs of electricity generation and delivery in the world. These costs fell significantly after the commissioning of the Bumbuna plant, to approximately US$ 0.16/kWh. However, fuel prices in Sierra Leone are still up to US$ 0.40/kWh more expensive than in neighbouring countries, and the economic performance of the national utility is severely impacted by this.

Potential for Renewable Energy: 

Solar energy
The country experiences sunshine for majority of the year. A recent study estimated the average daily solar radiation at 4.1-5.2 kWh/m2, which indicates significant potential for solar power. This data is in need of revision, as calculations were made from eight sites in 1996. The economic feasibility of photovoltaic (PV) electricity needs to be further explored.

The current installed capacity of solar PV is about 25 kW, with 60–80 % being installed by the RCD Solar Company. It provides 120 W/4 kW solar systems for hospitals, schools, domestic and commercial use. Significant work has also been done by the Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA).

Wind energy
Data on wind speeds across the country is rare. The existing data indicates a countrywide average speed of 3–5 m/s. However, wind speeds of up to 12 m/s seem to be possible in some areas so wind power may offer very promising opportunities for Sierra Leone. The Ministry of Energy and Power (MEP) is encouraging studies of sites that may hold potential. With wind turbines capable of operating with low wind speeds now on the market, there is a strong potential for these systems in rural areas, especially in the north. There is currently no wind energy system in Sierra Leone.

Biomass energy
Biomass potential is high, from forest resources, and 656,400 tons of crop waste annually, amounting to a total generation potential of 2,706 GWh. Potential feedstocks include rice husks and straw. However, at the current deforestation rate, and with 65 % of the population living in rural areas, the harvesting of traditional fuels can lead to environmental, health and social impacts. In terms of biofuels, a recent initiative led by Addax Bioenergy, a Swiss group, with financing from a number of different international development organisations, is to construct a biomass-fueled power plant and sugarcane ethanol refinery in the country, at a total cost of €258 million. The refinery is expected to produce up to 90 million litres of ethanol annually, and will be powered entirely through the conjoined biomass station, which will also feed renewable power into the national grid system.

Geothermal energy
No study has yet been conducted into the geothermal potential of Sierra Leone, and there are no current uses of the technology in the country.

The estimated hydroelectric potential is 1,513 MW from roughly 27 different sites. Nearly all however, suffer from enormous flow variation between the wet and dry seasons. According to the Lahmeyer International report (1996), only two of the 27 sites studied in the Master Plan are deemed to provide hydropower at attractive costs and with annual flow regulation. Yiben II, Bekongor III, Kambatibo, Betmai III, and Yiben I are the most promising plants in terms of generation cost. Presently, Sierra Leone has two hydroelectric plants. These are the 2.4 MW Guma plant, installed in 1967 in the Western Area, which has been out of service since 1982 and the only operational 6 MW run-of-the-river type located in the Eastern Province. This plant is operated by the BKPS consortium, and is connected to a regional grid linking thermal power plants in Bo and Kenema. The Bumbuna Falls plant, after nearly two decades of successive governmental promises, was finally commissioned in 2009, and currently provides approximately 50 MW in the wet season, and 18 MW in the dry. The plant is linked to the Freetown electricity grid through a 161 kV connecting line.

Many of the rivers investigated suffice for only small to medium hydro systems (i.e. 1–100 MW), but there is also a potential for pico to mini hydro systems (5 kW to 1 MW).  Resources under 2 MW are expected to be an area of potential for Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Long-term plans in the hydropower sector include the further expansion of the Bumbuna facility by 275 MW, and further expansion of the Bekongor facility to 200 MW of total capacity.

Potential for Energy Efficiency: 

The potential for energy efficiency in Sierra Leone is great. There is considerable room for improvement in the various energy sub sectors. Energy constitutes a large proportion of the country’s GDP costs, and a considerable percentage of household energy expenditure. Pursuing energy efficiency measures will contribute significantly to savings. Fuel substitution could also reduce the negative impact of the use of some fuels on the environment and reduce the cost of energy services. Particular savings could be made in the transport sector, where an aging vehicle fleet and the complete lack of a mass transit network hamper efficiency improvements; the industrial sector, where down-rated capacities and the use of old technologies lead to inefficiencies, and the residential sector, where the majority of rural energy needs are met by inefficient biomass fuels and kerosene, whilst incandescent lamps are almost exclusively used for lighting in urban households.


Electricity market
The National Power Authority Act 1982 established the NPA as the entity with sole responsibility for power generation (incl. hydropower), transmission, distribution and supply. The 2005 NPA (Amendment) Act stipulated additional governance duties for the NPA.

The Bo-Kenema Power Service (BKPS) was established in 1991 as a semi-autonomous body. Formally, the BKPS is not an operating division of the NPA, but reports to the NPA Board through its Steering Committee.  The BKPS is responsible for the integrated supply of electricity for the townships of Bo and Kenema and their environs.

Production facilities operated by the NPA produced just 3.7 MW in 2006,, and the distribution facilities remain in a poor state. Problems have included maintenance, technical and non-technical losses, under-investment, vandalism, and a tariff structure that does not automatically adjust for changes in fuel costs.

Liquid fuels market
The Sierra Leone National Petroleum Company (SLNPC), established in 1954, is the current market leader in the petroleum sector. In September 2009, Anadarko (US) found potentially viable off-shore oil reserves while drilling in the Sierra Leone-Liberia basin. Anadarko owns 40%, Woodside (Australia) has 25%, Repsol (Spain) also 25% and Tullow (UK) has 10% There is an oil refinery in Freetown, formerly operated by the Sierra Leone Petroleum Refining Company Limited, with a capacity 10,000 bpd. In 2008, parliament approved the acquisition of the refinery from its Nigerian owners. As of 2011, the Government is seeking private companies to lease the Company to, and the associated properties. Private companies active in the petroleum sector include Total, Safecon, and Petro Leone, a collaboration between the indigenous private company Leonoil and the Addax & Oryx group.

The Petroleum Unit (PU) is a coordinator between the government, donor institutions and the petroleum industry in and outside of Sierra Leone. The PU is supervised by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Finance.

Structure / extent of competition: 

NPA, the country’s state-owned utility, established in 1982, is a vertically integrated company in charge of the generation, transmission, distribution, supply and sale of electricity.

As a small company carrying many risks, the NPA is unable to attract sizeable private foreign investors. Current plans envisage a two-stage process of:
(1) keeping the NPA vertically integrated, with private generators entering the market and an independent regulatory agency being formed; and
(2) restructuring the NPA as a limited liability company.

The future role of the NPA as a private firm is to be defined in the long term. Control of the utility passed to the National Commission for Privatization in November 2010, although the Authority has remained in state hands. The World Bank is considering assisting through a comprehensive power/water project.

The SLNPC was privatised in 1996, and is currently 100%-owned by Sierra Leoneans. The company is responsible for petroleum distribution in the country.

Existence of an energy framework and programmes to promote sustainable energy: 

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) provided funding to the government in 2004 for a study leading to the formulation of a national energy policy for the country.

Based on an assessment of the existing institutional framework as well as energy demand and supply patterns, a document draft entitled “The Energy Policy for Sierra Leone” was produced..

As defined in the energy policy draft document, the main policy target for electricity is to provide access for 35 % of the population by 2015.No proposed contribution of renewable energy to the electricity generation mix was mentioned. The following policy statements, however, relate to the promotion of RE:

  • formation of financial and administrative institutions to manage RE,
  • consideration of tax reductions and incentives for RE equipment,
  • manufacturing RE equipment to  encourage investments,
  • establishing sustainable financing mechanisms to make RE more accessible,
  • ensuring that RE producers and importers meet  certified performance and technical standards,
  • encouragement of solar water heating in hospitals, clinics, boarding homes.
  • measures to allay the fear of using solar cookers in rural areas,
  • encouragement of co-operatives and energy service companies to facilitate the financing mechanism for sustainable  RETs,
  • encouragement of local manufacturing of RE generator systems,
  • establishment of codes of practice, guidelines and standards for RE.

In April 2010, the Government announced the launch of the National Energy Policy Implementation Strategy, launched at the start of Sierra Leone’s first Renewable Energy Week, and sets out plans for achieving the goals established in the National Energy Policy.

According to the country’s second-generation Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for 2009-2011, a key government objective is the provision of a reliable power supply in the country; moving toward a low carbon energy economy through use of the country’s significant hydropower potential.

Current energy debates or legislation: 

The government has launched a new energy sector strategy based on public and private investments, regional integration and support of policy reforms. Institutional and policy reforms will include a systemic effort to strengthen the financial viability  of the NPA through reduced operational costs, tariff adjustments  to better reflect changing production costs, and more efficient billing methods. The short-term aim is to ensure that the NPA can purchase fuel for its existing generating facilities and pay for electricity from the Bumbuna Hydroelectric Project and other smaller hydropower projects, connected to the grid from 2009 onwards.

The new strategy proposes to unbundle the sector, separating generation, transmission, and distribution into separate entities. A new holding company would own the existing generating assets and promote independent power producers. The NPA would refocus its efforts toward transmission and distribution, billing and commercial activities. In the longer term, the government plans to further develop hydro-electric generation on the Seli River with a new facility at Yiben, which together with augmentation of capacity at Bumbuna could contribute over 200MW of power. Government estimates that current demand for electricity is 400MW, only a small proportion of which is connected to the current distribution system.

Major energy studies: 

Sierra Leone is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union. Managing regional volatility is an important challenge for Sierra Leone, as unrest has frequently spilled across borders in the sub-region. Political and economic integration, are key to managing this risk. The NPA currently represents Sierra Leone in the West African Power Pool, a regional organisation dedicated to fostering greater co-operation in the region’s power sectors, and interconnection between countries to enhance energy security. Currently, the country is not interconnected, although the environmental and social impact assessments have been performed for the Guinea – Sierra Leone – Liberia – Ivory Coast interconnection project, which seeks to link the four nations via a 225 kV transmission system.

Potential benefits from regional integrations are seen to include competitive infrastructure services. Sierra Leone has potential for significant hydro-electric generation (estimated at 1.2GW). Through joining the West Africa Power Pool, Sierra Leone may be both an importer and exporter to smooth the development of its national capacity and compensate for seasonal variations in hydroelectric generation.

Role of government: 

The Ministry of Energy and Power (MEP) is the governmental authority responsible for the electricity and water sectors. Its mandate includes sector policy formulation, planning and coordination. Besides the electricity sub-sector, various other sub-sectors of the wider energy sector of the Sierra Leonean economy fall within the scope of responsibilities of various ministries. The MEP handles matters related to electric power supply, including hydroelectric schemes and, nominally, RE matters related to solar and wind energy.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) handles biomass issues, especially those relating to fuel wood. Petroleum marketing and sales are handled by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI); the Ministry of Finance (MF) also plays a significant role in the import and storage of petroleum products. Petroleum exploration and extraction is within the scope of responsibilities of a Presidential Petroleum Commission. The Ministry of Mineral Resources (MMR) deals with the extraction of minerals, including energy related minerals.

The energy sector maintains this organizational structure to develop and implement inter-disciplinary energy-related policies. The functions of these various ministries and other authorities as they relate to their responsibilities for various energy resources are outlined in the relevant Acts of Parliament and pertinent regulations. Some of the relevant Acts include the NPA Act, 1982; the NPA (Amendment) Act, 2005; the Forestry Act, 1998; and the Petroleum Act, 2002.

Government agencies in sustainable energy: 

No government agencies are currently active in the field of sustainable energy in the country.

Energy planning procedures: 

  • Addax Bio-energy project

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has, during 2010, co-financed the Addax Bio-energy project, providing €25 million in funding. The Project will grow sugar cane and produce ethanol and electricity. Final commissioning for the project is expected to take place in 2013.

  • Bumbuna Hydroelectric Project

The 50 MW facility at the Bumbuna hydroelectric dam, which will significantly boost electricity production, became fully operational in November 2009. Funds were provided by the World Bank, the African Development Bank, Italy, OPEC, the Netherlands and the government of Sierra Leone. The total project cost was $91.8 million. The second phase will start in 2010 and is expected to be completed in six years.

Between 2006 and 2007, a number of offers by foreign investors were made. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed for some of these offers. Below is a list of some renewable energy related offers made to the Ministry:

ENERGEON Inc., USA, biomass power plant (medium- to long-term) of 100–500 MW capacity (feedstocks - tree branches, agricultural residues, municipal solid waste);
Waste to Energy (energy production using residues) by Alternative Use PLC;
5.0 MW solar system for electricity generation by NAANOVO Energy Inc. (through Chief Gbondo);
Biomass (Waste to Energy) project by Cinergex Solutions Ltd. (through David Donkor).

None of the projects have been realised so far.

In 2007, the government contracted an independent provider, through international competitive bidding to supply 15 MW of emergency power. An additional contract with an independent producer was initiated in 2008. However, due to distribution constraints, high fuel costs and technical losses, this arrangement has been terminated. In late 2009 power from the Bumbuna hydro-electric plant became available, and while initially constrained by distribution capacity, the 50MW of power was intended to complement heavy fuel oil generation, to bring total generation capacity to 74MW in 2010. However, issues with aged infrastructure and low water levels at the dam mean that current delivered capacity is in the region of 6 MW, as of 2011, far below even the dry-season rated capacity of the project. This has led to significant financial losses for the NPA, and great public consternation.

Energy regulator Date of creation: 

The MEP is responsible for the entire electricity sector. Therefore, up until 2002, the electricity industry was sector regulated through the MEP. In 2002, the National Commission for Privatization (NCP) was created through an Act of Parliament. Its function is the privatization and reform of public enterprises with the NPA being part of the first schedule of public enterprises for divestiture. Therefore, operational management of NPA is now provided by a Board, which reports directly to the NCP in preparation for Private Sector Participation (PSP).  The Project Implementation Unit (PIU) for the Bumbuna Hydroelectric Project (BHEP) reports to the MEP.

Degree of independence: 

Both the NCP and the MEP are direct subsidiaries of the government.

Regulatory framework for sustainable energy: 

The main legislative arrangements for the electricity sector are contained in the National Power Authority Act of 1982 and the National Power Authority (Amendment) Act of 2005.
The 1982 NPA Act defines the responsibilities of the NPA, and the development of hydroelectric projects. The NPA forms part of the Steering Committee which supervises the PIU.
The petroleum sector is regulated by the Petroleum Exploration and the Protection Act of 2001/10. This act provides for the establishment of the Petroleum Resources Unit to represent the state in negotiations with interested parties for the exploration, development or production of petroleum, to act on behalf of the state in petroleum agreements and to regulate the petroleum industry in Sierra Leone.

Regulatory roles: 

Under the existing law the National Power Authority (NPA) performs the functions of the regulator, setting electricity tariffs and licensing generators of electricity. The licensing regime focuses principally on generation without covering explicitly other functional areas such as transmission, distribution or supply. Although general requirements for license issuance are set out in the Act, considerable discretion is given to the NPA.

Role of government department in energy regulation: 

Though the ownership and supervisory roles of the MEP for the NPA have been repealed and vested in the NCP, the MEP retains the overall responsibility for policy formulation, planning and coordination in the respect of the development and utilization of the country’s energy resources.

Regulatory barriers: 

The lack of an energy sector policy as well as a legal and regulatory framework is a barrier to private sector entry in the electricity supply chain. As mentioned above, there is no energy policy that creates an environment for private sector investments and RE. This creates some uncertainties for investors. The development of entrepreneurship in rural electricity supply, and grid connected projects in particular, remain unclear.

The current NPA tariffs for households are below production cost, and about 20 % of the consumption is not being paid for due to illegal connections and the lack of a proper customer census. Bureaucratic bottlenecks increase costs of business, e.g. construction permits and registering property.


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