In Liberia’s Bong County, a new and innovative power delivery model is lighting up rural homes, businesses, hospitals, and community centers.
For years, the 320,000 residents of Bong County did not have access to a functioning electricity network. In 2018, Power Africa — through USAID’s Mission in Liberia — partnered with the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) to construct 77 kilometers of 33 kilovolt (kV) distribution power lines to Gbarnga in Bong County. This new grid went live in December 2021.
Power Africa continued to support LEC as they entered into a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement with Jungle Energy Power (JEP), a local energy firm, to operate and manage the Bong County grid. JEP provides operations, maintenance, and management services in a partnership with LEC, which still maintains the medium-voltage power distribution lines.
This five-year partnership has already led to an increase in energy access, service quality, and technical management.
Power Africa has long championed PPPs as a way to advance energy sector development. When the Bong County grid came online, Power Africa and LEC assessed the potential for the utility to engage the private sector in operations and service delivery for the new network as part of this approach.
Power Africa first conducted an extensive performance assessment of supply operations in similar rural counties with grid access. This analysis enabled LEC to make informed decisions on the best approach for the effective management of the new Bong County network, culminating in a decision to use an incentive-based contract built on distribution line extensions and customer connections. On the advice of Power Africa and following an international competitive bidding process, LEC selected JEP, a company with previous regional network operation experience, to operate in Bong County.
In less than two years, the partnership has supported 500 new connections in the area. Together, LEC and JEP have a target of reaching up to 2,000 by September 2023.
Expanding the Approach
Given the success of the Bong County model, Power Africa aims to continue development of utility operation reforms using a similar model in other countries across the region. The type of partnership is a model for efficient grid operation on various scales. Private sector participation in this deliberate approach can enable more efficient utility operations without exposing partners to excessive financial risk improving service delivery and user experience for families and businesses.