The West African country of Sierra Leone has been enduring consistent power outages since 2021. A recent blackout happened again after Turkish company Karpowership suspended its operations in the country for several days over a $40 million unpaid bill.
Karpowership is the country’s main source of grid electricity, especially during the dry season when output from hydroelectric power stations is lower, according to African Business. The company first deployed a “power ship”—a floating gas—fired power station—in Sierra Leone in 2018, and added a second vessel the following year. Under its five-year contract with the government, signed in 2020, Karpowership supplies up to 65 MW of electricity to the country.
Power ships are floating power plants that can be quickly deployed to provide electricity to countries with unreliable or inadequate power grids. They are often used as a temporary solution, but in recent years some African countries have been looking to power ships as a more permanent solution.
However, the Sierra Leone blackouts highlight some of the challenges with power ships. First, they are expensive to operate. Second, they can be vulnerable to fuel price fluctuations. Third, they can be disruptive to marine ecosystems.
In addition, the Sierra Leone case shows that power ships are not a silver bullet for Africa's energy problems. Countries need to invest in developing their own power generation capacity, such as renewable energy sources, in order to achieve long-term energy security.
There are some specific doubts that have been raised about powers ships in light of the Sierra Leone blackouts. First, the reliance on a single supplier. Sierra Leone was heavily reliant on Karpowership for its electricity supply. When the company suspended operations, it caused widespread blackouts. This raises the question of whether it is wise for countries to rely on a single supplier for their essential energy needs.
Second, the cost. Power ships can be expensive to operate, especially if they are using fossil fuels. This can be a challenge for developing countries with limited budgets.
Third, environmental impact. Power ships can produce emissions that pollute the air and water. They can also be disruptive to marine ecosystems.
Despite these challenges, power ships can still be a useful tool for providing electricity to countries with unreliable or inadequate power grids. However, it is important for countries to carefully consider the costs and benefits of power ships before making a long-term commitment.
It is also important to note that the Sierra Leone blackouts are not necessarily a reflection of the viability of power ships in general. Other countries have successfully used power ships to provide reliable electricity. However, the Sierra Leone case does highlight the importance of careful planning and management when using power ships.