President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has launched the Mount Coffee Hydropower Rehabilitation Project in Harrisburg, Montserrado County.
When fully rehabilitated, it is anticipated that the hydro will supply 60 Mega Watts of reliable and affordable electricity to residents and businesses of Monrovia and its immediate environs.
The project was launched in the rural Montserrado township of Harrisburg with an array of Liberian government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and development partners in attendance. Specific among the partners were the three funding partners, the governments of Norway and Germany as well as the European Investment Bank (EIB).
The launch of the project starts the process of bringing to fruition government’s long anticipated task of providing cheap and reliable power to residents of Monrovia and their businesses. The government has on several occasions, termed the provision of electricity as a national emergency.
Located in the Harrisburg Township of Careysburg, Montserrado County, the Mount Coffee hydro plant lies on the Saint Paul River approximately 21 miles from Monrovia.
The rehabilitation exercise, according to government and project management sources, will be carried out on three of the four turbines that were initially installed prior to the 14-year civil crisis, though information had earlier emerged from government sources that all four of the turbines would have been rebuilt and the country could be served with a power output of 80-90 megawatts.
The power generating capacity of the new hydro when completed will be below its previous potential. Prior to the First Liberian civil war the plant produced 64 megawatts of electricity, which accounted for 35% of all electricity generated in the country, almost all of which was concentrated in the nation’s capital, Monrovia.
“The restoration of the Mount Coffee Hydro-Electric Plant which will provide affordable and reliable power to residents and businesses is an urgent national priority for Liberia which this government has decided to take very seriously,” Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo said at the occasion.
The rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee hydro plant is estimated to cost around US$300 million, government sources disclosed. The funds are beings generated from four sources, the governments of Liberia, Norway and Germany and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
It is expected that when the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant is fully rehabilitated, Liberia will be able to supply power to its neighbors as a contributing partner to their economic viability, though it is debatable whether the 60 megawatt will serve Monrovia and its environs efficiently.
Although construction will start immediately following the ground-breaking on Saturday, the plant will only be able to produce power sometime in 2015. Until then, the Government of Liberia is exploring other alternative power sources, including the installation of heavy fuel oil (HFO) plants and the West African Power Pool project (WAPP) to beef up energy access across the country.
President Sirleaf said the launch of the project became a reality as a result of tireless efforts of several individuals and organizations, to include government officials, officials of the funding partners of the projects and other technicians. “[Many] people have worked hard to make sure that this day becomes a reality,” she asserted.
The Liberian leader called on the contractors to work and ensure that the completion date of the project, which has been set for December 2015, is met and that Liberians begin to benefit from hydro power again as soon as possible.
She called on all government officials, as well as every Liberian to roll up their sleeves to work hard during the course of this dry season. “During this dry season let us go out in the rural parts of the country and see what is being done in those areas. But when we get back, let us report the facts,” she jokingly said.
Giving an overview of the project, the Project Director of the Mount Coffee Hydro project, Randal Enns lauded the governments of Liberia, Norway, Germany and the EIB, and said that , “It has been a pleasure implementing this project with the support and in the company of such dedicated, visionary and hardworking people.
“On behalf of the Mount Coffee team, we are excited that as we stand here today in the Mount Coffee powerhouse, construction has already started and we are well on the way to meeting the December 2015 goal for first power. The project has been underway since May 2012 with the establishment of the project implementation unit at LEC."
Mr. Enns indicated that as mentioned earlier, the team’s target is to have the first generating unit producing current in December 2015, and placing the remaining units into service in two-month intervals. “We expect the plant to be fully commissioned in mid-2016,” he said.