Friday, 22 March 2013

Electricity Blues

By Farzana Rasheed

There are at least 4 ways to start this blog post: 
  1. Stable and reasonably priced electricity is truly a luxury. 
  2. How many times a day do you think it is appropriate to curse the LEC?
  3. Is there fuel in the generator?
  4. Hope springs eternal. Do you think we will experience normal electricity in Liberia in the next 10 years? Your guess as good as mine. 
  5. What does LEC really stand for?
I did my calculations. We are spending at least US $ 1,000 per month on electricity, in direct and and indirect ways. 

LEC or Liberia Electricity Corporation has been quite inconsistent and, we are experiencing frequent outages, sometimes more than 6 hours at a stretch. In that case, the back-up generator has to be fired and fueled up. A generator also needs to be serviced frequently and, just like any other machine, can break down and needs to be repaired. This entails regular expenses. 

As far as pricing is concerned, it seems the LEC is even more expensive than relying on a generator with US $ 100 yielding 176 LEC units versus US $ 4.61 per gallon of diesel . For instance, we consume about 5 gallons of diesel for 10 hours of generator use, which is worth US$25.00 versus we use up 60 KW units per 10 hours of LEC which is worth US$ 40.00! In both cases we use our 2 x 24,000 BTU air-conditioners in the office, without which, we would boil and sweat in the Liberian  heat.

Besides these costs, you never know when the LEC will be on or off. There aren't any scheduled hours or days for maintenance. Moreover, there are not even any recognisable patterns to predict except that you will definitely be disappointed, angered and infuriated over and over again. There is a hotline you can call but sometimes no one answers it or the person does not have any useful information to provide.

Is that the LEC?? Where are you guys these days?
If any of your equipment has been damaged due to a power fluctuation, you will not get reimbursed. In case someone is tapping on your line, the LEC has no means to protect your cables. 

Service is truly non existent. 

In fact, service is provided unofficially by LEC field technicians who will come and solve your problem for a fee! So, often times, you'll be the only one in your building or in the neighbourhood with no electricity. Just when you thought you can enjoy a nice stretch of 5 minutes of calm and cool. You might even pass the whole day without knowing you're the only schmuck without LEC and, it will probably be too late to call your usual LEC guy(s). (It is useful to save more than 1 number and have worked with more than 1 LEC technician) And when the LEC fellow finally comes over, it could be something along the lines of: Faulty Breaker, Need to Change the Cable, Faulty Meter, and so on. You will probably end up buying new kit and materials! This could take a couple of days. 

When the LEC is not on, you'll be on generator and unless it is not housed at a distance, you'll be subject to noise pollution and, not realise that half of your stress is being caused by that hum. 

Things are not improving at all. The only change, rather, was the shift to pre-paid meters last year. One can at least monitor one's usage and, try to cut corners but with electricity being as expensive as it is, and, the need to have running air conditioners in a hot tropical country, one will continue to consume considerable power. 

How has NATC managed? We recently purchased a 15 KVA generator that can run 2 of our 24,000 BTU air conditioners if the LEC goes off so that we don't suffer in the heat. And, when the LEC is on, we can also enjoy our air conditioners and all our other equipment. Initially when we would switch on both AC's at the same time the breaker on the LEC pole would switch off, or trip. We would have to call LEC (unofficially) to come, put it on and spend $30.00 per visit! We later on realised that this problem was being caused due to substandard cables running from the pole to our office. We are enjoying stable LEC since we decided to replace the cables at a cost of $500.00.

As you can see, to be able to enjoy electricity in Liberia, one needs to really be resourceful, patient, and have a great sense of humour! 


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience and resolution. I have a question for you. Several figures you referenced in your account are not identified currency. Are they LD (Liberian Dollar) or USD (United States Dollar)?