Helen Gavin

15 February, 2020

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Improving Sierra Leone’s power system 

Improving Sierra Leone’s power system 

Members of the Programme of Integrating Renewable Energy, including Stephanie Hirmer, Hindolo George-Williams and John Rhys, are starting a new project, focussed on Sierra Leone.  They will be evaluating the country’s infrastructure and identifying opportunities to improve the power system, with funding by DFID’s Applied Research Programme on Energy and Economic Growth.
Power systems are notoriously difficult to research and adapt. They bring together technical, economic, social, and institutional challenges.  Energy is a product that is politically sensitive (requiring low tariffs) but needing substantial investment (requiring high tariffs) to expand. While renewable energy technology, such as solar PV, is rapidly becoming cheaper, it is variable and so requires new balancing mechanisms.

Understanding and addressing energy system issues therefore requires a whole systems approach, reflecting the dependencies and co-evolution of energy infrastructure and institutions, economic activity, technology, and society.

This multidisciplinary research project has three workstreams:

(1) Explore opportunities for increasing efficiency and reliability in relation to existing infrastructure, focusing mainly on Freetown;

(2) Evaluate mechanisms to increase access to electricity in rural settings; and

(3) Understand how increased access to electricity can deliver business growth or new business opportunities both nationally and within rural settings.

A key element is to ensure the research remains relevant and implementable, and so the project will be governed by a strategic advisory board, comprising people working in the Sierra Leone power sector and chaired by DFID.