Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 July 2020:
The government of Sierra Leone has this week agreed a 5-year contract with the Turkish owned Karpowership – one of the world’s largest operators of floating power plants, to continue to provide electricity for the country’s capital Freetown.
It is not certain how much the government has paid or will pay in the next five years, but the contract will not come cheap.
Estimates suggest the government could be paying hundreds of millions of dollars in the next five years, raising questions about long-term value for money, sustainability and political expediency.
With presidential and general elections scheduled to take place in 2023/2024, and the constant electricity problems facing the country, critics of the government say that the aim of this contract is to help shore-up the ruling party’s electoral chances of staying in power after 2023.
Karpowership – part of the Karadeniz Energy Group currently supplies about 80% of the country’s electricity from two large ships anchored off the capital Freetown, under an expensive contract signed in 2018 with the Bio-led government after several faulty starts by the former APC government.
The vessels are dual-fuel powered using either heavy fuel oil or liquefied natural gas (LNG). The new agreement will add 5 megawatts (MW) to current production.
Sierra Leone needs at least 500 MW of electricity to meet its non-industrial demand. According to the new agreement, Karpowership will generate an average of 63 MW during the dry season and 23 MW during the wet season for Sierra Leone’s Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority.
The country’s Bumbuna Hydro-electricity facility has the potential capacity to provide about 80 MW of power, but actual production does not exceed 60 MW in the rain season, and then grinds to an almost halt during the dry season when water level at the dam falls and technical repairs are carried out.
Less than 15% of households in the country have access to electricity supply, with prolonged and intermittent blackouts quite common in the capital and other towns and cities.
Karpowership nor the government have disclosed the financial details of the deal or its contract value.
Karpowership currently provides around 4,100 MW of power from its fleet of 25 ships, mainly in eight African nations, but also in Cuba, across the Middle East and Asia.