Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, is grappling with electricity shortages as Turkish operator Karpowership halts its power supply due to an outstanding debt of approximately $40 million. Minister Kanja Sesay revealed that the debt had accumulated over time due to the government subsidizing over half of the ship’s kilowatt-hour charges.
The government’s increased subsidy spending is attributed to charging consumers in the depreciating Leone currency, which has significantly weakened against the dollar used to pay the power provider. To address the financial strain, a government commission has been established to review consumer electricity tariffs, which may result in a potential doubling of rates.
Karpowership, a major operator of floating power plants globally and a part of the Karadeniz Energy Group, had previously signed agreements in 2018 and 2020 to supply electricity to Sierra Leone’s state power utility. The company has engaged in similar agreements with several African nations facing electricity supply challenges.
As of now, Karpowership has not officially commented on the situation. According to their website, they have been providing Sierra Leone with approximately 65 megawatts of power generation capacity since 2020, covering 80 percent of the country’s total electricity needs.
Minister Sesay reported that the cessation of Karpowership’s supply has resulted in a 13 percent reduction in electricity availability in the capital. To cope with the shortages, Freetown has implemented electricity rationing, leaving homes and businesses without power for extended hours daily.
Karpowership constitutes one of three major sources of electricity for the city, with the other sources being the country’s hydroelectric dam and power interconnection with Ivory Coast, which also serves Guinea and Liberia. Karpower’s supply is particularly crucial during the dry season when water levels at the dam are low, while reliance on the firm diminishes during the rainy season. Sierra Leone is currently in the peak of its May to November rainy season.