A constant supply of uninterrupted electricity is still a distant dream in Liberia.
Service from LEC, while extremely expensive, US $ 0.52 per kw, continues to be inconsistent. For the better part of 2014, we have had no service at our office on Randall Street. Yes, we had NO LEC service at all, not even for a couple of hours. This meant we have been relying solely on our 15 kVA generator for power. Moreover, our neighbors started sharing our generator. One of our neighbors is our landlord so the sharing is goodwill! Another is a garage and in exchange they service the generator every Saturday. The other neighbour is a mobile repair shop and they pitch in cash every alternate day to pay for fuel.
Our total consumption is about 35 Amps and our 15 kVA generator has a 60Amp capacity and consumes 5 gallons of diesel every day (costs $ 20.00). Usually this suffices but even then somehow we seem to have more load than we think and the generator trips.
Recently, while we were resolving an LEC issue at our house, we thought we had stumbled into a genius plan with one of the LEC technicians. By taking a small "commission" of $ 75.00 a field LEC technician who had come to replace our house meter said he would switch us to the Ministry of Gender's line. Apparently it is on 24/7. So, he did put us on the Gender line and we did seem to have 24/7 power but that lasted for a day. At least we seem to have LEC again intermittently and really randomly but we realise we got duped.
LEC is on sometimes in the afternoon and sometimes it's there in the morning. It is so random that one cannot even detect a pattern. We usually go home without having had LEC all day and buy fuel for the next day.
As for the issue at our house, two days after the fact, we realised our meter had burnt. Out all day on a Sunday, the LEC did not come back on as it usually does (as we have observed a bit more of a clear pattern at our house) in the night. Two days later, we realised that it was only us. Drat!
We filed a complaint at the LEC head office in Waterside on a Wednesday. Naturally, no emergency team came round and five days later, Haresh went to Waterside to try to get a technician to come to our aid. He found one but who bypassed the burnt meter and connected us directed to the LEC grid, illegally. This made matters even worse because the next day we were back to square one. The illegal connection gave out and we were again without light. That evening we called up an old contact (Mr. Dixon, the LEC Emergency Despatch officer) who sent over a team of technicians within the hour as promised. However when the team saw that an illegal connection had been made, they threatened to report it. Not only did it feel like an insult on injury since after complaining for 5 days and being without LEC, it also felt like bit of a joke - as if law and order is a gold standard in Liberia. Moreover, the fact that a technician pretending to be an LEC technician came over to help us out, goes to show how easily corruptible the LEC's infrastructure is. The emergency crew, three of them who came in a van, told us the meter would have to be replaced and they would be back the next day. We had to give them US $ 50.00 for their troubles.
The meter wasn't replaced until three days later after a lot of personal visits to the LEC, filing of an anomaly form, and personal follow ups at LEC Bushrod Island Tech department which is in charge of replacing meters. Even then, the LEC installation crew did not get it right the first time. Our meter was installed but there was no light. We rang up one of the installation crew's technician and asked him to come back. He crudely told us he had other work to do. We had to telephone his supervisor to ask him to come back.
Since our meter had to be registered, we could not buy credit the same day. A new meter comes with 20 units that are just about enough to make it through the evening. We asked our staff Emmanuel to follow up but he was brushed off and told the meter would not be registered until five days later. Annoyed, Haresh had to go in personally and after making some noise, the new meter was registered and he was able to buy credit.
We still have to follow up on getting our 300+ units transferred from our old meter to the new one.
From the looks of it, electricity is going to continue to be inconsistent, extremely expensive and a headache indefinitely.