Executive Director of the African Center for Energy Policy (ACEP) Dr Mohammed Amin Adam, says the country should declare five years of power crisis to do adjustments and proper planning for a revamp of the sector.
Our main problem with power rationing today, according to Dr. Adam, is because government hasn’t been truthful to Ghanaians, making many promises to end the load shedding; yet with no end in sight.
He made these remarks in a conversation with the Head of Communications at VRA, Sam Fletcher and the Executive Director of KITE, Ishmael Edjekumhene on Dr Amin’s Take, on Multi TV.
He wondered if the utilities companies, are properly briefing the President, in view of his many pronouncements on the issue, or whether there is simply no political will to inform the citizens on what exactly the state of affairs are. He maintains that, “unless we get the citizens to build confidence in the system, there will be too much doubts about our competence to address key issues facing the sector”.
Sam Fletcher, in his response, emphasised that all stakeholders in the sector mean well and doubts that there is anyone out there who wishes doom for the sector in the work they do. He maintains: “there are major things which are not under our control: Gas and crude oil, the falling water levels, and because we mean well, you have to calm down Ghanaians and tell them good news, while we work hard to remedy the situation”.
He recounted, that at the time of independence, the Akosombo dam was operating at sixty percent capacity, due to low population, and not many people were hooked to the national grid. However, with the growth of population, industries and small scale businesses, pressure began to mount on production. “At a point, we all went to sleep, thinking we had enough, to the extent of exporting to neighbouring countries”, he added.
Demand is between 10 to 12 % a year, which is very huge for a country with a population of twenty five million people. He compared this to an African average of 3%.
Ishmael Edjekumhene asked how a country could have series of crisis, almost becoming a cycle for the past ten years. “We have one of the best plans. Energy Commission is doing all its long term forecast, VRA has a whole planning unit, ECG and all the other key players. It is our inability to take critical decisions.”
The KITE Director admitted that investments in the power sector have been generally slow, with a tariff regime that has also not helped much. He insists that Electricity is expensive and “we must be prepared to pay for it in order to stay in business and meet the supply”.
Dr Amin Adam questioned how government intends to address the investment challenges by attracting independent power producers (IPPs) to invest in the sector.
Mr Edjekumhene answered; IPPs are into maximising profits and always have alternatives for investments. Ever since the power sector was opened up in 1997, many investors have not come in, which presupposes there are major inhibitions. “…When the private sector comes in, they look at negotiations with PURC, which is sometimes not attractive.” The issue of a reliable off-taker, he mentioned, also remains a challenge. In this case, ECG is not able to pay and most of these IPPs are looking for sovereign guarantee from government before they sign power purchase agreements.
The ACEP Boss again enquired why it has taken us almost four years to complete the Atuabo Gas project when it could be done in two years, considering that Nigeria’s gas supply to Ghana is not enough. “ECG has proved to be a credible off-taker by going for badges to bring in 450 megawatts of power and creating two escrows to guarantee they will pay for the power if supplied”, he revealed.
According to the VRA Communications Director, the Kpong Hydro Electric Project, which started in 2009, is currently under retrofitting and expected to add forty more megawatts to the existing capacity. It is scheduled for completion by December 2014. The kpone thermal plant, when completed is also expected to generate 220 megawatts capacity.
Fletcher feared that, if the losses in the system continue, with time they will grow even bigger. “We can build capacity, spend on investments, build fuel security to provide power but we keep wasting thirty to forty percent, and within the next ten years, we will not be producing at 5000 megawatt capacity as projected.”
Currently, we don’t have enough generation from hydro any longer. The total potential is about 2500 megawatts, 1600 megawatts is out from Bui, Akosombo and Kpong. The remaining 900 megawatts is scattered across many sites, about 21 small dams.
Sam Fletcher is optimistic that the country will soon get out of the current power crisis, provided we do things right, with patience, understanding and hard work from the VRA and all stakeholders.
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