The Republic of Sierra Leone is a tropical country located on Africa’s west coast, covering approximately 72,300 km2. Geographically, Sierra Leone possesses a mix of mountains, lowland plains, forest-savanna mosaic, and coastline. About 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s 5.5 million inhabitants live in rural areas, and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line. In recent decades, Sierra Leone has suffered from an extended civil war (1991-2002), and more recently, the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. Events such as these have put both the government and the population of Sierra Leone under constant pressure, sidelining developmental goals in the meantime. As a result, Sierra Leone currently possesses lacking infrastructure, as well as weakened institutional and professional capacity.
One result of Sierra Leone’s developmental setbacks is an inadequate national power grid. In 2011, the national electrification rate was below 10 percent, with fuel from biomass accounting for a majority of total energy use. In fact, poor access to electricity has been recognized as a binding constraint to long-term economic growth within the country. Addressing this issue is a priority area for the Government of Sierra Leone, which has included “cheap, affordable energy for all” in its Agenda for Prosperity. As part of this push for increased energy access, the Government of Sierra Leone has introduced a series of policy measures, including a 2009 Energy Policy, and more recently, a 2014 Renewable Energy Policy. Together, these measures set clear targets for expansion of the energy sector and provision of energy to all Sierra Leoneans.
Sierra Leone has identified potential hydropower resources of up to 2,000 MW capacity. Other renewable resources present in the country could take the form of wind, solar, or biomass developments.
In 2015, Sierra Leone approached CIF for potential financing of energy projects through the SREP fund. While many interventions have been identified, the primary goals of all projects would be improvement of the national grid, particularly in rural areas, as well as capacity building at the national level for the purpose of scaling up countrywide renewable energy investment. Development of renewable energy, both in terms of infrastructure and institutional capacity, will lead to improved energy access, better energy security, and national development through private investment.