By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
The Government of Sierra Leone has on the 28th October provided an update on the progress of its Energy Revolution initiative to supply basic power to all of its citizens by 2025. The Energy Revolution Initiative was announced by President Ernest Bai Koroma in May and the Energy Revolution pledged to provide at least 250,000 homes with solar units and introduce household solar to all 149 Chiefdoms by the end of next year, as well as to deliver modern power to up to one Million people by 2020.
Madam Ami Dumbuya who serves as the Country Campaign Manager for Power for All Sierra Leone said “a lot of progress has been made especially with government’s commitment on policy and the private sector’s enthusiasm to bring in products to reach out the rural poor. The ecosystem around the sector is been improved on and tangible gains will be made towards achieving the 250,000 installations target by end of 2017”.
According to release from the Power for All Campaign, as of the start of October this year the results that have been achieved so far included, amending the National Finance Policy in other to make all solar PV home systems exempt from Value Added Tax also known as GST as well as waiving of import duties in order to reduce the cost to consumers. A “Green Lane” has been set up by customs authorities to allow approved companies to get their products cleared faster from the Ports.
In other to ensure the effective implementation of the energy revolution in the country, the Ministry of Energy has vetted and approved thirteen Companies to benefit from the import waivers and Green Lane status. These companies are all advised and expected to adhere to the International Electro technical Commission (IEC) standards, ensuring that quality is maintained at all times.
At present, a Renewable Energy Association of Sierra Leone has already been created with 17 initial members. They are presently finding mechanisms to create access to finance for the sector to national and international actors.
Information also state that “a pilot financial model is being pioneered by a local commercial bank, microfinance institution and private company, which addresses company capitalization, consumer financing and FOREX hedging”. According to the Power for All Campaign press release, because of these ventures, “Sierra Leone has been included in the Africa Clean Energy (ACE) program being launched by DfID, which means new financing opportunities for the decentralized solar market will be made available in 2017”. Ami said “the Ace program will help to unlock finance for the sector by supporting private sector players to have better options to capitalize their operation; and for the campaign specifically, this will mean we are closer to achieving energy access for the 87% of our population without access to the grid”.
However, key government agencies and Ministries aligned on policy and regulation, including the Ministry of Energy, the National Revenue Authority, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Finance and the Standards Bureau has been set together to ensure the full implementation of the energy initiative in the country.
The Minister of Energy, Ambassador Henry O Macauley said “today off-grid solar technology provides us with an opportunity to get modern energy to all those living far from the grid”. He added that “through the elimination of taxes and tariffs and creation of a ‘Green Lane’ corridor at customs, the Government has taken rapid action to speed up the importation of solar products, and to make them cheaper for consumers”.
The Energy Minister however noted called for more investment into the sector. He said “we must urgently increase investment into the sector to maximize the impact of these strong policy measures, and ensure the Energy Revolution reaches its targets” He also called on their partners “in the international community to help us unlock catalytic finance to ensure we can reach 250,000 homes with modern energy by the end of 2017, and achieve power for all by 2025”.