Industry desperate for solution to energy crisis

Business News of Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Source: Graphic Online

Seth Twum Akwaboah 1

Industry operators in the country are desperately seeking solutions to combat the adverse impact of the worsening power crisis on their businesses.

Although, exempted earlier from the load-shedding exercise, industry was included late last year with a schedule of 48 hours access to electricity and 24 hours of outage.

This arrangement, which is better than the domestic consumer schedule of 12 hours of electricity and 24 hours of power outage, came about as a result of a power generation deficit currently estimated around 450 megawatts.

Most businesses, especially those in the manufacturing sub-sector, are bearing the full brunt of this crisis, having to incur extra costs to find alternate source of power for their operations. While some are struggling to survive, others are planning to lay off workers in order to stay in business.

Despite the relaxed schedule, industry players are crying foul and seeking for urgent remedies for the current crisis. The Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Ghana Industries, Mr Seth Twum- Akwaboah, explained that for the manufacturing sector to record a negative growth of 8 per cent showed that industry was shrinking.

“It is a bad situation because industry is not able to plan well, as in some cases the schedule is not adhered to. If you are using generators for full production, it will cost you as much as six times if you were using the normal grid. It is a disaster for industry,” he lamented.

Mr Twum-Akwaboah was speaking at a power forum dubbed: “The now solutions” and organised by Accra-based Joy Fm of the Multimedia Group Limited. The forum brought together experts and professionals in the energy sector to deliberate and find solutions for the country’s current energy challenges.

According to him, it was imperative for industry to be given priority in the distribution of energy as incurring extra cost would be a burden for some of them who were already struggling.

“Why must we put off power when Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are operating during the day? Industry is already borrowing around 30 per cent; buying fuel to power generators would be an extra input cost for the already struggling businesses.

Debate over exemptions

Exemption of government agencies and essential services from the current load-shedding exercise also dominated discussions at the forum.

An energy expert, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby, was of the opinion that there must be a review of the exemptions as most of those included did not make optimal use of it and yet they did not pay.

According to him, some people in the ministries, for instance, have access to regular supply of power and use it to watch “lunch time soap operas” on television while industry and consumers who pay for it are suffering from the load shedding.

The General Manager of the Sub-Transmission Division of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Mr Samuel Odame, however had a different opinion.

“There are some of the exempted agencies that you cannot do without. An example is the hospitals and the security agencies. The government machinery must operate despite the crisis and we cannot therefore include them in the ongoing load shedding,” he explained.

Later in an interview, the Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Dr Mohammed Amin Adam, said involving the security installations and essential services would mean the crisis was at the worst stage.

“I don’t agree that we should exempt them. We shouldn’t exempt them. It is for a purpose and that purpose is also in our interest. Let us all suffer. I believe that industry should be exempted so the consumers will suffer more instead,” he said.

According to Dr Amin Adam, upgrading the load shedding to the security installations and essential services would send a bad signal to investors on their safety in the country.

“They are exempted because of the special services they provide. We can’t allow them to suffer load shedding. If you take it there, it is a demonstration of the severity of the crisis we find ourselves in,. It sends a bad signal to investors,” he added.

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