As Liberians await the first 22-megawatts turbine at the Mt. Coffee Hydro Power Plant to go online on December 15, the ‘Liberia Energy Access Practitioner’ (LEAP) group has been launched to help government decentralize energy to rural areas in the country.
The program was organized by Mercy Corps, an international non-governmental organization, through its ‘Light Up Liberia’ project with funding from the European Union.
The launch, which was held over the weekend, brought together representatives from Total Liberia, Plan Liberia, Alternative Energy, We4Self, GIZ-Endev, among others.
The network is particularly intended to bring together diverse energy service providers and stakeholders to support the delivery of clean, reliable, and affordable decentralized energy as a way of contributing to Liberia’s electrification projects.
LEAP will also concentrate on the promotion of solar technology and clean cooking stoves, with its members’ operations (mostly small and medium enterprises) expected to range from Pico solution to larger, decentralized solar systems.
“We recognize that off-grid energy solutions move beyond bridging the energy gap by addressing lighting, cooking, pumping needs to positively affect outcomes in education, health and agriculture and enhance livelihood opportunities,” a representative of Mercy Corps said.
According to him, there is currently no formal network or trade association for retailers as well as distributors of off-grid renewable energy products in Liberia. As a result, there is little to no collaboration between players in the rural energy market.
In her keynote address on behalf of the management of the Rural Renewable Energy Agency (RREA), Mrs. Mardia Potter Warner said the government of Liberia through RREA will continue to support and promote the platform for the growth of the sector.
“We fully endorse the outcome of the LEAP Network, considering it a good basis for furthering our cooperation and intend to go beyond the agreement reached in the area of renewable energy,” she said.
“We commit ourselves to working with others to achieve the goals of the LEAP network especially through the partnership initiatives that could contribute to expanding the use of renewable energy,” she added.
In remarks, Mercy Corps Deputy Country Director Douglas Cooper lauded the government through the RREA and other partners for the progress made in Liberia.
“Mercy Corps has been in operation in Liberia since 2002 implementing programs in food security, peace-building and youth empowerment.” Over the last year, he said, Mercy Corps has also been engaging in social mobilization and economic development in response to the impacts of the Ebola outbreak.
Mercy Corp Liberia currently has funding from the European Commission (EC) through a 36-month program entitled “Light Up Liberia” in Bong, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Gbarpolu, Nimba and rural Montserrado counties.
According to Cooper, with support from the EC, Mercy Corps Liberia will improve access to affordable and sustainable energy for rural families.
The Liberia Energy Access Practitioner group will operate from 2016-19.