Buying barges, the shortest way out – Tarzan advises government on power crisis

In view of public frustration over Ghana’s erratic power supply, former  Chief Executive of Volta River Authority (VRA) has advised, government should buy barges immediately to deliver power as Ghana’s short-term plan.

“People are tired of future solutions… “, Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby, a frustrated energy consumer said.

His advice dismisses medium to long-term plans announced by the Minister for Energy, Emmanuel Armah Kofi-Buah, who is relying on gas expected in September to power thermal plants at Aboadze.

With  40% of Ghana’s energy needs coming from hydro, there is also a divine option – praying for rains as a miracle is needed to keep Bui Dam working.

“The consumer cannot wait for that time… the consumer is not getting what he is paying for”, he said.

Although barges are deemed prohibitively expensive, Dr. Wereko-Brobby said government should “bite the bullet” by flying in barges “to plug a hole immediately”.

This, he said, can buy government some breathing space to now think through the problems in the energy sector more comprehensively.

In an attempt to allay fears about cost, Dr. Wereko-Brobby argued, affordability should not be defined as the availability of money. What is unaffordable is industry and businesses losing economic competiveness, he pointed out.

He suggested, it may be time to cut funding for Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and Volta River Authority (VRA)  and channel the monies into buying barges.

Power is in short supply, but alternatives to solving Ghana’s power crisis is not.

The Africa Center for Energy Policy has also called on government to declare a three-year power crisis so government can manage expectations and take time to deal with Ghana’s 30 years old power problem that has defied every government; military and civilian.

Ghana has a terrible record with barges. There is a US$110 million Osagyefo Power Barge at Effasu in the Western Region. It is meant to generate 125 MW power. The  barge was ordered by the Ghanaian government in 1995 with financial assistance from the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund of Japan. The barge was built in Italy, completed in 1999, and delivered to Ghana in October 2002. 

It was intended to generate electricity from natural gas obtained from offshore production fields. The offshore oil and gas fields did not develop as quickly as expected, so the power barge sat idle and its condition deteriorated.

The barge has also been neglected for almost nine years because of a protracted and tortuous legal tussle between the government and Balkan Energy Company.

Balkan Energy Company signed a 20-year contract agreement with the government in 2007, and was expected to equip, refurbish and commission the barge as well as its associated facilities within a 90-day period at a cost of US$40 million. Story by Ghana||Edwin Appiah|[email protected]

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