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Sierra Leone invests $11 million in upgrading electricity network

25 January 2017 at 15:38 | 7915 views

Sierra Leone is on course for an upgraded electricity network thanks to an $11 million project which concentrated on transmission, distribution and generation.

According to STEG International Services, a Tunisian based company, which was contracted to do the procurement, installation and commissioning of the reinforcement and extension of the medium and low voltage network and the supply of prepaid meters and vending stations in the Western Area, has completed the project within the stipulated time.

At the presentation of the remaining materials of the project to the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA), through the Ministry of Energy at the STEG warehouse, Goderich, Acting Project Manager, Aymen Louhaichi, said his company operates in more than 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

He added that they have projects ongoing in Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo, Cameroon, among others.

“Most of our works are related to electricity transmission, distribution and generation. We do installation and rehabilitation of electricity networks. We also do design services, feasibility studies, supervision of the work, among others,” he said.

He said all the remaining materials were given to EDSA free of charge because the project includes the supply of equipment and that the remaining ones under the project must be given to the Ministry of Energy.

Recalling STEG challenges during the work, Aymen Louhaichi said the streets in Freetown were not so wide to always dig and install poles and transformers and construct substations.

“We were also facing challenges of doing the underground work. We had to get the required authorisation from utility service providers before we dig holes to do our work. We found solutions to some of our challenges with proper coordination with the Ministry of Energy and EDSA,” he said.

He said the project was supposed to have been completed within 18 months but noted that there was a little delay in the beginning as a result of the Ebola outbreak.

“We started the implementation in October, 2015 and completed in October, 2016. We have an addendum to the project which is to transfer the service drops to the newly installed poles and transformers. At the end of the day, the improvement will be seen by the customers,” he said.

He noted that the newly rehabilitated network would last for over 20 years.

The Director of Energy in the Ministry of Energy, Engineer Benjamin Kamara, said the project was conceived by his Ministry in order to stabilise the electricity network.

He added that the issue of low and medium voltage supply of electricity would be addressed once the addendum to the existing network was done.

He said the project served areas in both Western Urban and the Western Area Rural District, noting that once funds were available, the Ministry would do more.

Acting Director General of EDSA, Engineer Alhaji Timbo, described STEG as a very good company, adding that the company has utility workers, who helped to address the low and medium voltage of power supply through the networks.

He said they have experts hence completed the project within the stipulated time, adding that once EDSA would be in Sierra Leone, STEG would always be its strong partner.

“To work in Sierra Leone is a challenge because we have tight roads. Wherever you want to install poles and transformers or even construct substations, the location might be a private land and confrontation would always ensue. But we were able to address the challenges because we were having a company with the right technical ability,” he said.

The Country Representative of STEG, Mohamed Alhaji Tarawally, said they have successfully done the installation of 88 new distribution substations, which include 23 package substations, 25 ground mounted transformers and 39 pole mounted distribution transformers.

He added that they rehabilitated 30 existing distribution substations which include the upgrading of seven ground mounted distribution transformers, installation of 30 new 11KVA oil ring main units and the installation of 29 new LV distribution panels.

“We also did the installation of 15km of 11 KV underground cables. We installed 64km of 11KV overhead lines. We did the installation of 115km of LV overhead lines and we did a supply of 10,200 split prepaid meters circuit breakers and boxes which include 10,000 single phase and 200 three phases. We also did a supply of four vending stations with dongles,” he disclosed, adding that they supplied two Hilux pick-ups equipped with ladders and tool boxes.

“STEG International Services, which was established in 2006 to transfer knowledge in engineering, is a subsidiary to STEG in Tunisia. 70% of the staff employed to implement this project are Sierra Leoneans as we sought to promote the Local Content Policy of Dr. Ernest Koroma,” he said.

He thanked the Ministry of Energy and EDSA for their tremendous support during the project implementation and that they were looking forward to a better coordination in future.

Engineer Francis Nyama of EDSA said the network was not a new line construction, but rather it was the rehabilitation of the existing networks in order to address the low voltage and wastage of electricity from the transmission and distribution point to customers.