Experts: Rejection of US$1.5 billion coal power plant is best

The Volta River Authority (VRA) in collaboration with a Chinese company, Shenzhen Energy Group Company Limited (SEC) is preparing to set up two 350 MW supercritical coal-fired generating plants at the cost of US$1.5 billion at Ekumfi Aboano, in the Ekumfi District of the Central Region.


After a public announcement of the intent by the VRA to venture into coal for electricity power generation in the country, several environmentalists and anti-climate change organizations have kicked against the move.

The experts cited a number of momentous consequences the carbon emissions from the plants would have on the residents of Ekumfi and its environs.
But, the prospects for the actualization of the intended project are becoming increasingly bleak..

The coal power plant which is supposed to be up and running from April 2017 seems to have not gotten the needed support from government.

The Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Mahama Ayariga, has confirmed that, the country was yet to grant permit for the construction of the coal plant.
“Having gone to deposit our instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement, we will not come back home and be permitting coal plants,” the Minister asserted.

This means that, the government has neither considered approving the project nor shown interest in coal power generation in the country generally in the immediate future.
Meanwhile, some experts have said government’s rejection of the project will affect the country’s energy mix generation plans.

A fundamental reason why the coal fuelled power project in Ghana is not advisable is reflected in a research done by Groundwork in South Africa where such facilities exist. The research proved that, 2,200 deaths in South Africa have been caused by coal fired plants.

Scientific knowledge has shown that, whenever the coal is burnt, it emits dangerous pollutants as; Lead, Mercury, Carbon Dioxide, Uranium, Nitrogen Dioxide and particulate matter among others. Groundwork also proved that, 51% of deaths in South Africa are also caused by respiratory illness whiles 54% are linked to cardiovascular diseases.

It said that, communities around the coast in the Ekumfi area would also be prone to both respiratory and cardiovascular diseases if the coal fired plants are allowed on their land.
Mr. Williams Larbi a senior officer of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an interview with the paper said, the Ekumfi Aboano project has not been brought to the Agency yet for environmental permit.

Meanwhile, Mr. Emmanuel Salu, an environmental expert has said revealed that, the country has no laws on coal power generation and therefore it will be impossible for even EPA to grant any permit for such a venture.

Mr. Salu expressing his views on the viability of the coal power project, indicated that the coal means of power generation is not sustainable because of the negative environmental impact associated and the cost of generation. He said, a proper cost benefit analysis done will reveal that, the project will not be profitable taking into consideration the lack of willingness of consumers to pay more for power.

He noted that, coal is the dirtiest form of power generation which produces a lot of waste as well as the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere makes it environmentally unfriendly.

But, he could not pass conclusion as to whether the project should be abandoned or permitted. He explained that, for now the details of how the Chinese are going to produce the power is not known, “for now the technology to be used by VRA and the SEC is not known so I can’t make a conclusion on the Ekumfi project.”

Similarly, Dr. Ishmeal Ackah, energy policy analyst at African Center for Energy Policy (ACEP) is of the view that, the project is not sustainable and has a high negative effect on the environment.

He stressed that, renewable energy source of power generation is better instead of coal source.

VRA and SEC, after a successful prefeasibility study and design of the plant, have since served scoping notice to allow individuals, groups and organizations with special interest, concerns and expert knowledge on the environmental impact to furnish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VRA and SEC with it.

The project, according to VRA will be funded by the China African Development (CAD) Fund.

Mr. Jacob Brown Yawson, the Manger for Technical Services of the VRA in Aboadze at a community engagement with the people of Saafa Aboano, Saafa Mpoano, Saafa Kokodo, Otuam and Kontakore assured them that they are very cautious and serious with the environmental impacts of coal operations. He went on to promise them that, the VRA would be using what they call ‘clean coal’ which is less harmful to the environment and the residents.

However, high-level officials struggled to justify the proposed coal plant when it came about in 2013, during the country’s worst energy crises.

The coal power project is intended to contribute to addressing the power generation shortfall in Ghana

The Environment Minister has said that, Anti-coal campaigners should be relieved with government’s new position; but they are demanding a Presidential decree to formally and publicly cancel the ambitious coal project and any future fossil fuel plans. “Coal has severe health and environmental consequences so much so that developed nations are shying away from it.

Anti-coal campaigners argue for the protection of the environment without compromising on the health of the people and the integrity of the ecosystems. The coal plant would have contradicted Ghana’s ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change last August in the pursuit of sustainable development and attaining clean energy goals in line with Ghana’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (GH-INDC).

The Paris agreement, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, comes into effect in November, just before the Conference of Parties (COP22) taking place in Marrakesh, Morocco. “There is no future in fossil fuel investments. The world urgently needs a just transition to 100% renewable energy with universal access across the globe,” said Landry Nintereste, 350Africa Regional Team Leader.

“The African continent is well positioned to take the lead, refuse energy models that aggravate climate chaos and compromises its renewable development path”.

-Adnan Adams Mohammed

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