BBC Africa Interview with Subhash Abeywickrama

Subhash Abeywickrama, COO of Sunbird Bioenergy Sierra Leone, discusses the supply of 32 MW of renewable power to the government of Sierra Leone. Interview by @BBCAfrica correspondent Zawadi Mudibo @zawadimudibo.

Zawadi Mudibo introduces the problems faced by businesses in Sierra Leone due to the rationing of power. The country only has 99.6MW of installed capacity to support a population 7 million people, and currently only 15% of the population have access to power. Even worse, only 2.5% of rural population have access to electricity, compared to 42.8% across Sub Saharan Africa according to World Bank data. For businesses to survive, it is necessary to use diesel generators that are expensive to operate and cause excessive pollution.

Subhash explains how Sunbird Bioenergy is helping to solve this problem by supplying 32 MW of renewable power to the national grid from their project site located in Mabilifu near Makeni. The company is the largest agricultural investor in Sierra Leone and is an integrated agricultural estate and renewable energy company that supplies electricity and bioethanol produced from sugarcane.

The company currently has more than 6,000 Ha of sugarcane under cultivation that is being used to solve the energy problem. The harvested sugarcane is crushed and the juice is used to produce bioethanol which is used as a low-carbon transportation fuel, and the fiber or bagasse is converted into renewable electricity in our 32 MW biomass power plant and exported to the national grid.

This creates thousands of jobs in the agricultural sector and adds value to the wider economy by supplying reliable low-cost power 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

More importantly, it reduces the importation of HFO and diesel fuel which both saves valuable currency reserves for the country and reduces the emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Sierra Leone, with its biomass, solar and hydro resources has the ability to become one of the first African countries to be powered solely by renewable energy.