Hydro electricity in Liberia

14th July 2015

4.2 million people live in Liberia but only just over one 1% the population has access to electricity, one of the lowest access rates in the world. For those who can access electricity the cost is high. Somebody living in a one bedroom flat in Monrovia could expect to be paying triple the amount for their energy as somebody in a similar flat in London. A minority of Liberians can afford to purchase a diesel generator and fuel to light their homes at night. To generate a kilowatt of electricity this way costs $3.96 an hour – so for New Yorkers that would mean a monthly electricity bill of over $7920 , So It’s no surprise that the high cost of energy is named by businesses as a top reason not to invest in Liberia. Energy prices eat the profits they might have expected, preventing them from expanding and creating much needed jobs.

The Mount Coffee Hydro project will quadruple the amount of electricity available in Liberia and reduce the cost. More Liberians will have light at night. Doing business in Liberia will become more profitable.

To help get the Mount Coffee Hydro project completed, the AGI team in Liberia work with a small team in the President’s office: the President’s Delivery Unit (PDU). The unit is in charge of making sure the President’s most important projects are completed on time. We supported the PDU to see how their involvement could get Mount Coffee completed more quickly, making judicious use of Presidential pressure to keep things on track. We also helped PDU to see that, as well as challenging the project leads, they can be more effective supporting contractors and deal with problems earlier. For example, the Ministries of Public Works and of Finance were being slow to pay compensation to the families who have to move house to make way for the power lines. Compensation cheques can take a long time to get paid in Liberia, sometimes delaying projects for months. PDU supported the contractors by working with the relevant Ministries so that they paid more quickly and freed the land up on time.

Now we are working with the PDU to manage the flow of information to the President in a way that informs effective decision making. We’re working to ensure information comes from a range of sources (not just the project lead) and that officials visit the site of projects to see what is really happening on the ground. We hope that the stronger monitoring practices that PDU are using will help more Liberians access power and establish strong precedents for future projects. Mount Coffee is due to begin providing power in December 2016 and be fully online by mid-2017 – making a real difference to the people of Liberia.

 Photography: jbodane