Mass Citizen Movement for Cheap, Stable Electricity in Sight

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The National Legislature may enter the New Year (2015) under strong pressure from some Liberians who have begun serious mobilization to converge there in February to compel Legislators to pass a new energy law, denouncing the Liberia Electricity Corporation’s monopoly over electricity.

Energy in Liberia is supplied by LEC under the supervision of the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy.

The man championing the cause, Harry A. Greaves, Jr., told scores of Liberians at a December 17 meeting that the cost of power in Liberia is not only exorbitant but unstable.

The mass action will be a way of testing the power of the people in relation to their elected officials.

According to Mr. Greaves, electricity is very scarce and its cost unaffordable.   It therefore needs to be privatized to encourage competition.

LEC’s monopoly over the energy sector needs to be broken in order to allow more companies to participate and an independent regulator set up to enable ordinary Liberians and businesses to have access to cheap, plentiful  and affordable electricity, Mr. Greaves declared.

Making a reference to the communication sector, he recalled that because the monopoly of Lone Star at the time was broken, more GSM companies emerged and this has led to millions of Liberians having access to easy and relatively inexpensive cell phones to communicate wherever they want.

Mr. Greaves, a businessman running a hospitality enterprise with his wife, Mrs. Precious Andrews Greaves, indicated that he spends US$100.00 a day and US$3,000 a month to LEC for current.

But, he added, LEC current is unstable and the needed services are not provided, thereby causing entrepreneurs to experience more losses than profits.

Commenting on the current status of energy in Liberia, Mr. Greaves indicated that LEC is giving out 40 megawatt current as opposed to 150 megawatts that should cover more businesses and homes in Monrovia alone.

On the much publicized Mount Coffee Hydro Electric Plant, he explained that when the project is completed, it will only give out 70 megawatts of current, as opposed to 700-800 megawatts needed to cover Monrovia and its environs.

He was quick to remind the group that repair work on the hydro plant does not take into consideration building a dam which, according to him, will lead to darkness during the dry season as the plant will not be able to generate electricity when the St. Paul River dries.

He also disclosed that Liberia is being earmarked to benefit from the U.S. Government’s Power Africa project, but government is paying a deaf ear to the free energy opportunity the United States wants to provide.

Emphasizing the need for the people’s movement to bring pressure to bear on the National Legislature regarding the energy sector, Mr. Greaves indicated that if the sector is privatized and there is an independent regulator, government will collect millions of dollars in revenues, rather than be stuck with LEC that does not pay taxes to government.

He also noted that privatization will oblige energy companies to provide the best services in line with regulation, and will further enhance decentralization.

Additionally, Mr. Greaves said if there were affordable electricity, CEMENCO would have produced cement in Liberia at a low cost and sell for a low price, which could give more citizens the opportunity to build solid concrete houses rather than shanty structures.

He told the meeting that he would be fully responsible to raise the money needed for the campaign to help with publicity, but gave the assurance that no Legislator will receive a cent as a bribe to pass the anticipated energy bill.

“That day will be a day to test the strength and power of the people against those they elected.  They will not receive one cent from us for this bill, and will be compelled to pass it since we are the ones that elected them and the movement itself is in their interest,” he added.

Those who attended the meeting pledged their support to the campaign and assured Mr. Greaves that they would rise up and go with him to the Capitol when the time comes.

They expressed in separate views their frustration and constraints associated with getting electricity from LEC, stressing that electricity is scarce, unstable and unreliable.

The subscribers claimed that they pay US$45.00 per amp and to get the current to their homes they usually have to bribe and pay extra costs for light poles.  The people also said that as a result of the lack of electricity, students find it hard to study at night; a situation they claim is partly responsible for mass failures in the education system and lack of knowledge in information technology.

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