Matters Arising From The Energy Deficit in Ghana

Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, Minister for Energy and Petroleum

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

Today being the beginning of a brand new year, I take this singular and wonderful opportunity to wish all Ghanaians, particularly my fans on Ghanaweb, a prosperous new year. Hopefully it will be a new year filled with promise, prosperity, peace, change for the better, and plenty of magnificent business opportunities. Let us hope that this New Year 2015 will usher in a breakthrough in our energy deficit crisis which has become popularly known as Dumsor (Off-on) syndrome.

Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, Minister for Energy and Petroleum
Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, Minister for Energy and Petroleum

Let us also hope that the quality of working life of all Ghanaian workers at home in Ghana will take a turn for the better in 2015. Let us pray and hope that our political leaders will make the right decisions to create jobs, spread wealth evenly to all and sundry, especially at this time of considerable drop in the global price of oil by about 50%. Ghanaians expect a respite in the hard times which this government of the NDC has doled out to them so far. Amen and Amen.

I was today reading on Ghanaweb that some people in Ghana are employing Agoro Boys to make illegal electricity connections for them so that they will be on two phases, so that if one phase goes off because of load-shedding, they could survive the blackout on the other phase. To that end, they are purchasing extra meters at exorbitant prices from illegal operators who are selling meters for as much as 400 cedis each instead of the official price of 82 cedis.

Well, as Chinua Achebe said in his book, ?Things Fall Apart?, ?so far as the hunter learns to shoot without missing, the bird will also learn to fly without perching?. Who can fault Ghanaians for being innovative and proactive? However, let us obey the law because two wrongs do not make a right, and in decent societies, people conform to, and comply with the law. And I believe Ghanaians are naturally law-abiding and decent.

It is sad in this day and age that we cannot plan ahead and foresee such excess demand for electricity coming our way at this point in time. We used to say in Nigeria that their power utility authority, NEPA, meant NEVER EXPECT POWER ALWAYS.What has become of our own ECG and VRA? Perhaps, we can say that ECG stands for EXTINGUISHERS CORPORATION OF GHANA, and VRA, VEXATIOUS RANDOM AUTHORITY.

It seems to me that in the past, we became complacent and rested on our oars instead of engaging in scenario planning, and strategic analysis. Instead of minding technical aspects of governance, we spent all our time scheming, politicking, and finding ways to grab power for selfish motives. Cardinal KojoTurkson of the Vatican has in his New Year message spoken to us as a wise man, proposing the idea that we need technocrats in a non-partisan arrangement or Union Government. A reincarnation of Kutu Acheampong?s UNIGOV?

Yes, we do, because now we have sidelined those Ghanaian experts who can fix our problems, and all we care for in Ghana now is filling technocratic positions with cadres, tribesmen, and friends, in a brazen show of nepotism, mediocrity, and ethnocentricity. It is no more service to the people but rather schemes aimed at the ability to cling on to power at all cost. What a shame!

Well, for most Ghanaians in Ghana, it has become a matter of survival and using their ingenuity and innovation to get what they want in life. Life has become tough and rough. ?Boys abr3!? has become the main refrain and mantra in Ghanaian circles. I wonder how many losses businesses in Ghana have incurred because of intermittent power supply. I wonder how much foreign investment has been diverted from our shores because of this national shame and public embarrassment. Yet we have borrowed to the tune of almost 24 billion dollars or between 58 to 63% of GDP, quite far beyond the international statutory requirement of no more than 25% of GDP. Inflation has soared to 16.9%. Where did all that money borrowed go?

I wonder how many visitors to Ghana got pissed off and inconvenienced by this power deficit. And I wonder how many souls were lost in hospitals because of lack of electricity supply. I wonder how many crimes were committed when the blackouts occurred. I wonder how many households could not access power in their houses this festive season, and as a result, they did not have water running in their houses, nor watch TV, nor play some music on their hi-fi systems.

I wonder how many could not afford to catch a bath, and so they missed going to church. They had no power to neither iron their clothes nor cook their food if they were depending on electric irons, stoves and cookers. Lastly, I wonder how many students in Ghana failed their exams because they could not revise in the night for lack of electricity.

According to Graphic Business Online, a Nigerian Company called Sahara Energy has since 2001 been supplying 2000 metric tonnes of crude oil to Tema Oil Refinery. This Company wants to expand their operations in Ghana by building a thermal plant this year to supply electricity to supplement existing capacity. They are very successful in that industry in Nigeria. An example is the Egbin Thermal Plant in Ikeja, Lagos.

Their plan consists of building a 2000 MW thermal plant in Ghana. Let us hope they walk the talk because we are sick and tired in Ghana of always reading about plans which do not see the light of day, and hearing repeatedly ad nauseum, empty promises. The Kumasi-Accra road for example is in abeyance, the KIA is in a coma or a quandary, new airports promised are yet to be built, many township roads are in bad shape. The list is endless.

According to Graphic Business Online, the current installed capacity of electricity generation in Ghana is 2846.5 MW of which VRA contributes 2104.5 MW or 75% of the total, with private independent producers contributing 726MW or 12%. The current power deficit is estimated at between 150 to 250MW. VRA has built a 220MW thermal power plant at Kpone (KTPP), and we have the Aboadze Thermal Plant.

There are plans to upgrade and add 360MW to the Sunon Asogli Plant whose current capacity is 200MW. The combined output from Akosombo, Kpong, and Bui Dams is 2580 MW. The Atuabo Gas Plant is another addition to the equation. There is the Nzema Photo-Electric Project which is being undertaken by a UK company, and it is estimated to cost 2.1 billion dollars.

We need to explore other alternate energy sources such as Wind Farms for Wind Energy (common in Spain and Netherlands), Biogas and Biomass (common in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), Ethanol (common in Brazil), Geothermal (common in New Zealand and Japan), Tidal (common in Israel), Chemical-based Electricity, Nuclear Energy (common in Europe, Iran, Japan, and Russia), among many other options.

We should be fine in our energy needs if our installed capacity reaches 6000 MW by the end of 2017. Our target by 2030 should be 10,000 MW, which the new Minister of Energy, Dr Kwabena Donkoh, has set as the target, to be able to cope with excess demand from industry and commerce. We should gradually and strategically move away from reliance on HEP, which is no more reliable because of dwindling water resources caused by global warming.

According to Graphic Business Online, plans are afoot to build a 700MW zero discharge coal plant in the Western Region. Currently, there are plans also to build the Atuabo Gas Plant which will use our quality LNG from our oil fields at Cape Three Points in Tullow?s Twenebua offshore fields. The Takoradi Thermal Plant has TAPCO generating 330 MW, TICO generating 220 MW, and T3 adding 132 MW. The challenge currently facing the HEP power plants in Ghana is the low water levels in the Dams. This challenge can be overcome by switching to LNG and King Coal from our own backyard, and not unduly relying on the erratic Nigeria-based West African Gas Pipeline Project (WAGP).

The General Electric Company of the USA plans to build a 1000 MW Floating Storage Re-gassing Unit (FSRU) by 2017, to augment power supply in the country, and to meet the ever-increasing demand due to rapid economic growth.

Whilst waiting for all these plans to materialize, we should adopt energy conservation and energy efficient methods. We should remember to use gas for cooking and powering our cars. We should build our houses with windows which have glass shutters for air circulation instead of glass louvres and panels which will require ACs. We need to use energy-efficient bulbs to reduce power consumption. We should build our houses with bricks instead of cement to have better cooling in the interior, to obviate the need for ACs. Our landcrete engineers say that it is more energy-efficient to build using burnt bricks and landcrete than to construct houses in Ghana with cement.

We should increase the height of our houses when building, to have proper natural cooling. We should turn off all power consuming units when going out to visit or going to bed. We should remember to be green and environmentally-friendly. We should reduce our carbon footprint by being mindful of the Triple Bottomline of Elkingham, People-centric, Planet-centric, and Profit-centric. The lower the energy cost, the higher the profits, and the happier the people (as shareholders, employees, directors, managers, and other stakeholders) will be. We need to sensitize Ghanaians to follow some of these simple energy-saving guidelines.

Remember also to reduce your energy consumption by reusing used materials, and recycling waste materials in the value chain. We need to carry out more research to find more efficient methods of utilizing our finite resources. We are aware that renewable energy solar stoves for domestic use were invented many years ago at KNUST and Legon, but our government has not helped to bring such innovations on stream to the market, to help reduce power consumption. Why? What is the politics involved in commercializing those results? Is it business as usual?

You are my man and woman of the year if you adhere to the simple energy-saving tips given above in the fight for global survival. Finally, remember that we have only one planet to protect. Your individual efforts will go a long way to achieve the lofty goals set out some time back at various fora of the UN Earth Summits in Helsinki, Kyoto, Rio de Janeiro, Lima, among other conferences and conventions. Be the change you want to see in the world (Mahatma Gandhi). Ghana needs your ideas and contributions for national development.

Shalom. Salaam Aleikum. Happy New Year to you all. Afrenhyia pa ooooooooooooo! Afe nko mbeto y3n.

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