On Tuesday, November 26, 2019, various stakeholders of the Renewable Energy (RE) Sector in Liberia met for the Integrated Forum for Renewable Energy in Liberia (IFREL), this month held at the GIZ/EnDev office. In two smaller focus discussion groups, participants reflected on and discussed core problems of the Renewable Energy sector in Liberia, and how they might be addressed.
The overall problem of “Liberians not fully using the potential of renewable energies and contributing to environmental problems (deforestation, pollution, etc.) and climate change” was broken down into different causes that are problems that could be addressed: insufficient awareness about the renewable energies (and their benefits), lack of finance, not many highly qualified solar installers, difficulties in finding high-quality installers and opportunities. Each of these problems was further broken down into related problems.
Lack of finances was perceived as a core problem. While in some countries, banks can help to finance the high investment costs of solar systems, this is not (yet) commonly practiced in Liberia. Such a lack of viable financing options can lead to the inability of solar businesses to thrive or expand if customers are unable to settle payments.
Both discussion groups highlighted insufficient awareness about Renewable Energy Technologies as a core problem for the sector. If people are not informed, interest and demand remain low, people then have little exposure or experience of RE and lose viable opportunities, e.g. to save money by using solar irrigation in agriculture. IFREL participants suggested that it could be an option to reach out to schools, churches, mosques to provide quality awareness on renewable energy solutions. Also, stakeholders agreed “We all need to generate videos, installers testimonies, upload it to the social media” The renewables-liberia.info web portal and its associated social media channels are open to showcase success stories and material to increase awareness.
The third problem, difficulties to find highly qualified RE professionals/opportunities point to the need for better training and better avenues to identify and connect with people providing or searching for RE products, services, or opportunities of high quality. This is crucial to prevent problems and disappointment about RE due to low-quality products and installations, which might lead to a bad reputation of solar energy and reduced demand. IFREL participants discussed that e-learning could be an option to increase the skills of solar installers. A digital information system about skilled professionals, with the possibility to identify, rate, and compare products and services might help to increase availability and quality of and satisfaction with RE products and services.
As always on IFREL meetings, participating stakeholders shared about their activities.
- Lady from Liberia Satellite service provider talked about how they train young people in solar, satellite, security cameras.
- The representative from the Apostolic church invited stakeholders to come to their school to create awareness there.
- The Human Development foundation focusses on improving the agriculture sector and carries various products including solar lamps to farmers.
- Melvin and Abraham, students from Stella Maris and MVTC who had been trained in solar installation expressed their interest in further learning and contributing to the sector.
- The Social Entrepreneurs organization works with schools, using sports and games to teach even elementary students about protecting the environment
- The Liberia Energy Network is involved in sales of solar products and had installed a mini-grid in Totota.
- Youngor T. Flomo shared with the sector that she has started to bring females RE professionals together to strengthen them, create awareness, and encourage girls to choose a RE career.
- The government was represented by LERC, established in 2015 to regulate the sector.
- Xxx has been in the RE sector for long, installed mini-grids in Lofa, a 75KW solar system for UNICEF.
- A rather new, and very active stakeholder is LIB Solar. LIB Solar has installed 101 mini-grid systems, 19 Solar Home Systems (including TVs), 20 solar freezers for female entrepreneurs in various counties.
- GIZ/EnDev, hosting this IFREL meeting in its 100% solar-powered office, shared its mission to increase access to affordable modern energies and to support all stakeholders in the RE sector of Liberia.
The next IFREL meeting will be on the last Tuesday of January 2020, open to everyone involved or interested in the RE sector of Liberia.