Energy Access in Sierra Leone
Very few people have access to electricity in Sierra Leone: Approximately 10% to 12% of the urban population and only around 2% of the rural population. Petrol or diesel generators are often used because most of the regions lack a stable public power supply. Kerosene, battery lamps or candles are mainly used for lighting. 96,8% of the population cooks with firewood or charcoal. There is significant potential for the use of renewable energy, particularly solar energy and hydroelectric power.
Energy Situation / Statistics
“Energy statistics are difficult to obtain in Sierra Leone, especially for renewable energy. Although the conventional thermal energy production and consumption patterns have been reported, no consolidated set of statistics exists for the total Energy situation of Sierra Leone. 
This is also reflected in international reports, such as the “Renewable Energy Statistics 2017” report by IRENA, where the solar power capacity for Sierra Leone is claimed to be 0MW.
EnDev has signed a MoU to assist the Ministry of Energy in Sierra Leone with data collection, but information is difficult to obtain, since different private sector stakeholders are reluctant to share data.
Sierra Leone’s power sector is small, with less than 150 MW of operational capacity and roughly 150,000 connected customers.
The biggest grids are:
- The 161kv line that extends to Freetown and the surrounding Western Area , covering about 40% of their residents. The power is provided by the Bumbuna hydro power plant, situated aprox. 220km from Freetown.
- The Makeni grid, providing electricity to the town of Makeni in Port Loko District. The power is also provided by the Bumbuna hydro power plant.
- The 33kv electricity line, or Bo-Kenema, which provides electricity to the towns Bo and Kenema, the capitals of Bo and Kenema Districts in the southeast of the country.
The costs for electricity are highly subsidised by the Government at a rate aprox. 1000 Leones (0,13 EUR) per kWh for private households, up to 0,23 EUR/kWh for industry.
Overall Energy Use
- 80% Biomass (mainly for cooking): Wood and Charcoal
- 13% Petroleum products (mainly for transport, lighting and private energy generation, all petroleum is imported)
- Grid connected energy accounts for the remaining energy
- Most of the energy is used in households
“The country possesses vast potential in renewable energy in the form of biomass from agricultural wastes, hydro and solar power, which remain virtually untapped.”
According to the “Renewable Energy Statistics 2017” report by IRENA there is a total capacity of 88 MW of Renewable Energy in the country, of which 56 MW are Hydro Power and 33 MW Bioenergy. However, as lined out above, data are incomplete. For example, Solar Energy is not included in the statistics.
According to the Ministry of Energy, the share of Renewables was 78,4% in 2013.
Hydro Power, Solar Energy, Biomass, Wind
Please click on the links below to read more about the different renewable energy technogies, their potentials and existing projects in Sierra Leone:
Policy Framework, Laws and Regulations
The main recently ratified laws, regulations and compacts, concerning the Energy Sector, with a focus on Renewables at a glimpse are:
- The „National Electricity Act 2011” was one of the biggest recent changes in the Electricity Sector in Sierra Leone, unbundling the vertically integrated National Power Authority, that was created by an Act of Parliament in 1982, into two entities, the Electricity Generation and Transmission Company (EGTC) and the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA). Furthermore, trough the Electricity and Water Regulatory Act 2011, a regulatory body, the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission was established.
- The Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Action Agenda for Sierra Leone. The Action Agenda was part of an 2014 agreement of ECOWAS member states, that agreed on the development of National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) and SE4ALL Agendas. In its agendas, Sierra Leone outlined goals, such as the electrification of all district headquarter towns, increased installed power capacity, 1.229MW in 2030, increased access to Renewable off-grid solutions, but also objectives such as increased access to improved cooking technologies or improved charcoal production. The goals are outlined for 2020 and 2030 respectively.
- The Energy Africa Policy Compact. In February 2016, Sierra Leone was the first African country to sign the Energy Africa Policy Compact with the Government of the UK. As a result, the Government of Sierra Leone launched the Energy Revolution, a government-led initiative to promote the solar home system market with activities in the areas of Demand Creation, Technical Assistance for Businesses, Policy Reform and Access to Finance. The initiative is committing to reach 250,000 households with modern solar solutions by 2018 and achieve ’Power for All’ by 2025. A DFID financed Power for All Campaign was launched and a "Energy Task Force Meeting" established.
- The Finance Act, 2017.pdf 2017 Finance Act guaranteeing Duty Waivers for imported solar products that fulfill IEC Standards. In practice, it is difficult for private companies to impose the measures, due to unclear administrative processes and long delays.
- The Energy policy of SL_FINAL for Print.pdf Renewable Energy Policy of Sierra Leone and the Energy Efficiency Policy of Sierra Leone, ratified by the Parliament in 2016 and launched in 2018, outlining the status of Renewable Energy in the country and objectives and measurements in the sector.
- In August 2017 the Millenium Challenge Coordinating Unit (MCCU), together with the Ministry of Energy, launched the "Electricity Sector Reform Roadmap 2017-2030)", with a vision for the Electricity Sector up to 2030.
- The National Energy Policy 2009 was reviewed but still needs ratification, as of beginning of 2018.
Institutional Set up in the Energy Sector
Some observations on the institutional set up of the (Renewable) Energy Sector in Sierra Leone are:
- The power sector has been unbundled into distinct actors for generation and transmission and for distribution and retail: The „National Electricity Act 2011” unbundled the vertically integrated National Power Authority into the Electricity Generation and Transmission Company (EGTC) and the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA). Furthermore, trough the Electricity and Water Regulatory Act 2011, a regulatory body, the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission was established.
- There is no separate Rural Electrification Agency. The Ministry of Energy has a Renewable Energy Department and works closely with the President’s Recovery Priorities team. One of the priority sectors is Energy, with the key objectives to double acesss to electricity from 125.000 to 250.000 households and double the operational power generation capacity from 75MW to 150MW.
- Following the launch of the Energy Revolution, the private sector association Renewable Energy Association of Sierra Leone (REASL) was founded, comprising of aprox. 30 members in the beginning of 2018.
- There are three Government Learning Institutions that offer courses in Renewable Energy, the Government Technical Institute in Freetown, Kissy Dockyards, the Government Technical Institute in Magburaka and the Eastern Polytechnic in Kenema.
Key Problems of the Energy Sector
- Financing/Investment: Especially lack of private investments, lack of economic incentives, support and implementation for PAYGO availability necessary, microfinance should be available for solar businesses, no fully functioning mobile money platform exists
- Enabling Legal Framework: Need for clear regulations of private sector participation in electricity generation, need for mini-grid licensing and concessions, need for standardized Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), need for less bureaucratic process of receiving tax / duty waivers for private companies importing certified solar products, no Rural Electrification Agency exists
- Infrastructure and Services: Transmission and distribution infrastructure need to be improved, most parts of the country have no access to any grid, many distribution lines were destroyed during the civil war, old equipment is in place and needs to be replaced, poor energy efficiency, the existing network is very old and there are immense power losses in the generation, transmission and distribution, (40% transmission losses), generation capacity does not cover the demand, especially in the industry many companies are forced to rely on diesel generators , service standards of EDSA are poor, use of inefficient cook stoves / 3-stone-fires and kerosene lights/battery torches
- Lack of accurate data: lack of data collection in the energy sector, absence of detailed research
- Lack of awareness: Missing awareness on quality standards for solar, especially PicoPV products, missing awareness on Improved Cook Stoves , missing awareness on environmental benefits (climate change, health etc.) of solar and improved cook stoves, recycling programme for old batteries necessary
- A much more detailed report on the energy situation is provided in the National Energy Profile of Sierra Leone, published by the UN in 2012
- For a full overview of energy policies see: Sierra Leone Energy Africa Compact, published by Energy Africa
- Useful IRENA mapping tool for seeing the wind and solar potential in Sierra Leone
- UNDP, 2012. National Energy Profile pf Sierra Leone, s.l.: UNDP.
- UNDP, 2012. National Energy Profile pf Sierra Leone, s.l.: UNDP.