Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf, Liberian
6 August 2012 – Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says that the country’s growth prospects rest upon the availability of electricity, infrastructure and a vibrant agriculture sector. “If we don’t have electricity, our plans for industrialisation will be affected,” she is reported as saying to the country’s Daily Observer.

Sirleaf says that the construction of the proposed 36 MW power station by Buchanan Renewable (BR), a biomass concessionaire operating in Grand Bassa county, remains crucial to complementing the effort of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC). She says that what the LEC is currently producing is insufficient to fully supply the city of Monrovia.

She says the BR plan was delayed because the structure of financing and the kilowatt per hour cost was too high for Liberia. “Another reason for the delay was that the project did not include transmission and distribution, which meant that the cost would go up and that all funding collected would go to BR; to the disadvantage of the LEC. That arrangement was not acceptable to our partners.”

Since the ratification of the concession agreement and signing of the power purchase agreement back in 2009, BR has secured US$112 million in debt financing for the power plant construction project from the US government’s overseas private investment corporation (OPIC). The company has also leased land for the construction of a site near Kakata in Margibi county and has completed the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA). It has obtained an environmental permit from the Liberian Environmental Protection Agency for the project.

Sirleaf says that during the period of disagreement which saw delays in that project, government attention shifted to the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee hydroelectric facility currently being sponsored by the World Bank. “The hydro plant became our first priority because at the end of the day that is the most cost-efficient means of producing power.”

However, with the kilowatt per hour cost from BR having been negotiated down to a level which the Liberian government and partners in the project find acceptable, the biomass plant can proceed. A survey conducted by Liberian government has shown that there is a sufficient supply of woodchips to enable BR export while fueling the Margibi-based biomass plant.