What happened to Sierra Leone’s $18 million Freetown Solar Park?

solar power plant near Serpa

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 March 2016

solar power plant near Serpa

In July 2014, the government of Sierra Leone signed an agreement for a landmark renewable energy project, that could generate and supply much needed clean electricity to homes and businesses across the capital.

But the Freetown Solar Park project, costing $18 million, has disappeared from the government’s radar. No solar, no electricity – no money.

And no one in high places in Sierra Leone wants to talk about the Freetown Solar Park Project, despite attempts by the Sierra Leone Telegraph to obtain information about progress.

On the 31st of June 2014, Sierra Leone’s ministry of finance and economic development announced that when completed, the Freetown Solar Park would provide six Megawatts of electricity.

kaifala marah signing Freetown solar deal2Speaking at the signing ceremony for the project, minister of finance and economic development – Dr Kaifala Marah (Photo) said: “We wish on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone to thank Mr. Siray Timbo – Special Envoy and Ambassador to the UAE; the Ministry of Energy; Mr Bahige Annan – The Consul General of Sierra Leone in Dubai; and Mr. Filip Matwin – General Manager of Advanced Science and Innovation Company (ASIC) LLC / OGI, for coordinating and putting together the winning bid.

“ASIC/OGI will facilitate co-financing and management of the project in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy.”

So what happened to the $18 million funding that was approved for this project?

The $18 million was meant to support both capital and revenue costs of establishing the Solar Park, as well as fund the training of local staff in technical skills development and management of the facility.

kaifala marah signing Freetown solar deal1Minister Marah was clear about the funding arrangement put in place, as he extended his  “gratitude to IRENA, for coordinating the selection process, the ADFD for extending USD 9 million as part funding to the Government of Sierra Leone and ASIC/OGI that will coordinate additional USD 9 million as private equity.”

Marah also said at the time that; “The project will place Sierra Leone on the global map of Renewable Energy; and further strengthen the existing cordial relationship between the Governments of Sierra Leone and the United Arab Emirates.”

bumbunadam12With an estimated 90% of households in Sierra Leone suffering from electricity  poverty, and total electricity production not more than 30 Megawatts from the Bumbuna Hydro-electricity plant in the north of the country (Photo), Sierra Leone’s economy is being crippled by the lack of electricity and corruption.

Six megawatts of electricity may be a drop in the ocean for a country whose non-industrial consumer needs is estimated at 500 megawatt (MW). But for Sierra Leone, where every watt of electricity produced, can make the difference between life and death, an uninterrupted supply of 6 MW of electricity supplying 3,000 homes is more than welcomed.

And it is for this reason, that questions are being asked about this project and the $18 million funding that was earmarked to support its development.

president koroma at abu dhabi jan 2014In January 2014, president Koroma attended a renewable energy summit in Abu Dhabi (Photo: Was president Koroma interested in those discussions?), where interest in harnessing Sierra Leone’s abundant sunshine and energy potential was seriously considered among 80 other competing applications.

And when the decision was announced by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), Sierra Leone was among a short list of six successful developing countries to receive funding totalling $80 million.

The six projects selected by IRENA / ADFD in 2014 are supposed to be based in Ecuador, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Samoa, and Sierra Leone, and were projected to generate a combined total of 35 MW of electricity and 4 million litres of bio-diesel production per year, benefiting over 300,000 people and businesses a year.

sierra leone solarAccording to a statement released by IRENA in January 2014; “Projects funded in the first round of the facility were selected by ADFD from a shortlist recommended by IRENA, which evaluated the technical and commercial merit and the socio-economic benefits of the projects. Projects had to be transformative, replicable and innovative.” (Photo: Sierra Leone street solar).

Sierra Leone’s success in winning this $18 million solar energy project bid, was hinged on the World Bank’s announcement of a $40 million financing package for the rehabilitation of the country’s electricity sector.

The World Bank Country Director in Sierra Leone – Mr. Yusupha Babatunde Crookes, said this at the time: “Electricity reaches less than 10 percent of the population in Sierra Leone and its cost is one of the highest in the sub region.”

So what was the $18 million project going to provide for the people of Sierra Leone?

According to the statement by the company – Mulk Renewable, who had been awarded the procurement contract to build and manage the Freetown Solar Project, the money was to be used solely to establish the solar park in Freetown.

“The Solar Park in Freetown, with a capacity of 6 MW, will be one of West Africa’s largest solar parks,” says Mulk Renewable.

Spear headed by Mr. Khurram Nawab founder of MULK Renewable Energy and inventor of its broad and innovative patented Solar Technologies portfolio, the company was to provide engineering, procurement and construction expertise for Sierra Leone’s first integrated and large-scale solar energy production project.

The Solar PV panels was to have been sourced through a partnership with Masdar PV, a 100% subsidiary of Masdar – Abu Dhabi’s multifaceted initiative for innovative renewable energy technologies, launched and owned by the Mubadala Development Company.

The General Manager of Advanced Science and Innovation Company (ASIC) LLC, was to have been responsible for the overall management of the project.

“I feel glad that our effort to get this clean energy project to the forefront has been successful. From the start, I have been constantly driven to change this thought into reality and now I’m definite that with our joint technology expertise and support of the Ministry of Energy of Sierra Leone and Advanced Science and Innovation Company(ASIC), we will be able to successfully deliver this landmark project in the best possible way,” says Mr. Bahige Annan – the Consul General of Sierra Leone in Dubai, UAE.

solar farmThe Freetown Solar Park was planned to generate 6 MW of electricity that could have been powering 3,000 homes in Sierra Leone, had the government gone ahead with the project.

Sierra Leone needs a total of 500 MW of electricity to meet the needs of its non-industrial consumers. And the company was aiming to achieve 25% of the country’s energy generation from renewable sources by the end of last year – 2015.

What happened to the $18 million Freetown Solar Park?

The Sierra Leone Telegraph contacted senior government officials in the Koroma government, including the energy ministry and the office of the vice president, but no one agreed to comment.

3 Comments

  1. When we debate these burning issues that our people and the country is experiencing under this administration we are labeled as enemies of APC and of President Ernest Bai Koroma. In fact many of their people accuse us with their usual misguided words ‘Na Bad Heart People’.

    Well, call us what you may, we are Sierra Leoneans who would like our people and country benefit from whatever support be it financial, or moral supports our partners.

    We would like our country and its people be given the respect and support that they deserve. They are not asking President Koroma to share his salary with the people of this country or use it to build roads and bridges, or for any national development that the country may need.

    We want, the people of this country want any donation or loan that President Koroma or his team asked for or receive from donor partners in their name or on their behalf (The People Of this Country) must be judiciously put in good use for the benefit of this country and not just for himself or his officers in the government or his cronies in the parastatals.

    This reminds me of the ‘celebrated Cable Sierra Leone’. This company or rather project was brought registered here some three or so years ago. principally we were made to believe that by its inception our problems with slow internet will be over. The company had dug every pavement of our major roads from their registered office on the beach road in Lumley/Aberdeen to Guinea/Liberia etc. We are still waiting for this ‘High power Speed Internet Services’. The question is.. When is our internet service connected to this High Power Speed machine to propel out internet service?

    Without any exaggeration it is a fact that before the inception of the Cable Sierra Leone, the internet services in the country was far better. Now it is widely complained by all sector of the internet world of Sierra Leone that the speed had dramatically reduced with no clear explanation by the service providers. In the last couple of weeks the speed of the country’s Sierra-tel internet services dropped beyond imagination and many times the service were distorted with no explanation from the management. The customer care number provided for customers to report faults or make other inquiries were completely dysfunctional.

    Maybe, it is high time I ask the management of Sierratel to put out an official statement to the public why the service is still not improved. I should also ask the Management to learn to apologize to its customers whenever they fail to meet the contract agreement they had signed with their customers. Simple ethic.

  2. If this $18M was received or even half of it and was wrongly converted to personal use, then it clearly proves that, the administration is heartless, irresponsible, with no love for their people and country, no regard to their moral responsibility and duty of care, no respect for what history will speak about them. Too much have been said about this very government official. How can President Koroma and his appointed staff reduce their character to thieves at the expense of the standard of life deserved by their own people? Why are Sierra Leoneans treating their people and country as if they have a second country and people? Why do you think abroad is your best place to run and hide for life? Why don’t you care about the generation after you and set good examples? How much more would you like to leave in foreign banks like your predecessors? What do you prefer? Living on bread of sorrows or living to see your god works and be at peace with yourself and God?

  3. Give the project to Bohr Industries and we will build it, it is sad to see so many projects being awarded to foreign companies and land handed over to them and then they don’t even start the project like for example the new city hall in Freetown.

    I don’t think this however is the governments fault that this and other projects haven’t yet materialized, I think it is the fault of the companies being awarded these projects typically have bank funding for these types of projects and unfortunately the banks are not wanting to lend to Sierra Leone at the moment.

    The way forward is private investment, for example Bohr has the funds available and keen investors however doesn’t have the approval of projects in Sierra Leone so we can’t start anything there. Why is it so difficult for a company (Bohr Industries) that is so willing and able to develop the country to even get approval for a project? Bohr is not un-known to people within the government of Sierra Leone.

    The Government is also cautious at the moment to take on and announce new projects because if they don’t start in a reasonable time set by the media and public (which is normally not a realistic time frame) then they may be scrutinized by the media as per this article. Big projects take big planning and big time just to get started however when everything is ready they typically move fast.

    http://www.bohr.com.au are ready to take on this solar project along with any others, lets get Sierra Leone developed, create more jobs and continue the excellent growth that President Koroma has started and shown the world.

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