Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown has been hit by power cuts, its energy minister said on Friday, after Turkey’s Karpowership switched off electricity supply due to an unpaid debt of around $40m.
Minister Kanja Sesay told the Reuters news agency that the outstanding amount “was accrued over time because the government subsidises more than half the cost the ship charges per kilowatt hour”.
He said the government had to spend more on the subsidy because it charges consumers in the weak local Leone currency, one of worst performing against the dollar in which it pays the power provider.
A government commission has been set up to review consumer electricity tariffs which could double.
Karpowership, one of the world’s largest operators of floating power plants and part of the Karadeniz Energy Group, signed deals in 2018 and 2020 to provide electricity to Sierra Leone’s state power utility.
The company has made similar deals with several African countries struggling with electricity supply.
Karpowership has yet to comment on the development.
The company says on its website that it deployed around 65 megawatt power generation capacity to Sierra Leone since 2020 and has been supplying 80 percent of its total electricity needs.
Sesay said the switch-off by Karpowership had reduced electricity supply to the capital by 13 percent. Electricity is now being rationed in the capital with homes and businesses are going without electricity for hours daily.
Karpower is one of three sources of electricity to the city – the other two include the country’s hydro dam and power from an interconnection with Ivory Coast which also supplies Guinea and Liberia.