CLIENT: Ministry of Energy, The Republic of Sierra Leone
CONTRIBUTION: 34.5M GBP (including pre-feasibility and preparatory phases)
UNOPS SERVICES: Project Management and Infrastructure Development
SECTOR: Energy
END DATE: 31 October 2020

The Rural Renewable Energy Programme

The National Energy Policy and Action Plan of the Ministry of Energy (MoE) provides for an increase in energy access and in the country’s generation capacity. Part of the overall strategy has been to tap into Sierra Leone’s great renewable energy resources to provide more reliable, environmentally friendly and secure electricity to rural communities.
This objective was further echoed in the signing of a joint Energy Compact Agreement with the UK in 2016 focusing on the expansion of solar power to provide universal energy access by 2030. The President’s Recovery Priorities PRP) of 2016-2017 therefore established a new ceiling of 125,000 households to be electrified within the 15 months of the PRP term.
Against this background, the Sierra Leone Rural Renewable Energy Project (RREP) was developed to support the Government’s energy access objectives and its renewed drive for clean energy access towards low emissions and a climate resilient, gender sensitive and sustainable growth trajectory. These objectives are also anchored in the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative.
The RREP is a first of its kind in scale and scope in Sierra Leone and regionally in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project will contribute to Sierra Leone’s economic development through increased access to rural energy resources while simultaneously contributing to a significant reduction in Sierra Leone’s future Green House Gas emissions.
To do so, it aims to provide up to 5MW of sustainable renewable electricity in rural communities through mini-grid installations with private sector involvement. It is estimated approximately 100,000 direct beneficiaries in rural Sierra Leone will be connected to electricity, with a further 500,000 indirectly benefiting from access to low carbon electricity.
To ensure the project remains sustainable and acts as a catalyst for increased access to other unserved communities, it is being implemented in close collaboration with stakeholders in the communities and those established in rural development initiatives or are beneficiary agencies e.g. a formal Inter-Ministerial Cooperation Agreement was signed between the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).
The Agreement provides for collaboration on oversight activities, including monitoring and evaluation and the establishment of local by-laws to support the regulatory framework for rural electrification projects.
Other stakeholders include the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Unit of the Office of the President, the sector regulator (EWRC), community leaders and members of the Renewable Energy Association (REASL).
The active engagement of all these key stakeholders is critical to the success of the project.
The implementation of the project is developed around three work packages (WP):
Work package 1 and 1+ will be implemented in 3 phases: 6kWp solar photo-voltaic (SPV) generation facilities installed at 54 Community Health Centres (CHCs) by July 2017 which are transformed into small mini-grids grids with a capacity > ~36kW to connect all other public institutions and households in 50 of the village communities. A further 30communities may be targeted subject to the availability of funds. The small mini-grids will be operated by private operators with commercial interests or local communities associations, both ensuring long term sustainability.
The works are carried out under the strict supervision and quality control practices of UNOPS personnel. By engaging national contractors to complete works the project is further contributing to capacity building of the local construction sector. At the completion of the facilities, there will be a further 12 months defects notification period.
Work package 2: aims to attract private sector investment to the mini-grid sector while drawing on the lessons of Work package 1 and 1+. It will extend mini-grid installations with a capacity >36kW to a further 40 communities while testing sustainable business models for private sector service delivery. Work package 2 further aims to bring the country’s power generation capacity up to 5MW.
Work package 3: Technical Assistance (TA) and institutional development (capacity building) to both government authorities and private sector, as part of the holistic approach to facilitate mini-grids development and long term sustainable operations.
With an aim to contribute to universal access to electricity, the project focuses on providing access to solar power to those districts of Sierra Leone that are not already targeted by other main line electrification programmes. With this in mind, beneficiary community selection was led by the Ministry of Energy in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders according to a series of predefined criteria.
The project is being implemented through a phased approach to ensure lessons learnt from the first installations are captured in subsequent phases.
Beginning with the installation of 6kWp PV Solar systems in CHCs, the project will commission and test the systems. The 2nd phase foresees a scaling up of all facilities to a capacity between 16kWp and 36kWp. This will be sufficient to serve the remainder of public institutions while delivering electricity to households in the community.
Phases 1 and 2 cover 54 communities in twelve (12) Districts. Phase 3 onwards will see the installation of mini-grids extended to up to 70 additional communities (resources permitting). In doing so, it will test different business models for private sector management and operation of the facilities. The selection of communities and districts for subsequent phases will be made applying the same criteria as those used for phases 1 and 2.
The project will contribute to the Government’s goals for sustainable development and adaptation to climate change by utilising multiple sustainability initiatives. Specifically, the sustainability strategy for the project is founded on 3 main pillars:
1. Creating a conducive environment for the delivery of rural electrification solutions through the strengthening the policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks to govern the sector. This will be carried out through targeted capacity building and technical assistance described under work package 3.
2. Private sector involvement coupled with local community engagement are key features for the sustainable delivery of electricity services. Drawing from experience elsewhere, private sector driven mini-grid are considered to provide the highest chances for success. Work package 2 will include the engagement of private sector operators to manage the systems installed under work package 1 while promoting private investment in the sector under work package 2.
3. Renewable energy (green) is sustainable. Solar solutions are not dependent on rainfall patterns which, due to climatic change, is drastically becoming unreliable.
In addition, local contractors are engaged for construction of the civil works, creating employment opportunities in the local construction sector and enhancing the capacities of local contractors.