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Power Crisis And Biting ‘Dumsor’... Don't Blame VRA
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President John Mahama’s recent remarks that all the 26million Ghanaians become coaches whenever the senior national team, the Black Stars plays in any competitive match can also be true insofar as the cause/s of the ongoing debilitating load management of electricity in the country, now christened, ‘dumsor-dumsor’ is concern.

Ghanaians are currently blaming and cursing authorities at the Volta River Authority, the nation’s major power producers, GRIDCO and ECG for the over one year erratic power supply which has affected almost every facet of the Ghanaian economy and life.

Unfortunately, unlike football matches, where everyone who is desirous of watching can do so either personally going to the stadium, watch the game on television or listen to radio commentary to form his or opinion, discussions on the current challenges facing the nation’s power generation and supplies requires more than critical understanding of the issues, in-depth knowledge and must be devoid of entrenched views, mostly based on emotional and or partisan considerations in many cases.

As financial analyst and social commentator, Sydney Casley Hayford stated last week on Citi FM’s News Analysis Programme, The Big Issue, no one government or institution should be held liable for the challenges bedeviling the power sector today and that, it is a general failure of all Ghanaians.

“President Mahama is not responsible for anything that is going wrong in the power sector. It is not his fault…the challenges have been existing years ago before he came to power…,” Casley Hayford said.

Mr Hayford would rather attribute the energy challenges to a systemic failure by various institutions responsible for power supply, saying “…we haven’t invested consistently enough in the power sector, we haven’t planned well enough for urban spread and urban growth, we haven’t been able to address the issue of demand on power and energy consistently enough over the years…”
The above thoughtful statement by Mr. Casley Hayford amply addresses the reason/s why we as a nation are where we are today, so far as dumsor-dumsor is concerned, anything contrary to that is to scratch the surface.

His diagnosis on “systemic failure by various institutions responsible for power supply”, including the VRA, ECG, GRIDCO and their supervisory ministry cannot be over-emphasize.

Also, Mr. Hayford’s finding “…we haven’t invested consistently enough in the power sector, we haven’t planned well enough…” also hold water, as past governments and we the citizenry cannot be absolved from blame as we (governments and the people) have constantly used energy tariffs as a political tool unmindful of the fact that sooner than later it would catch up with us.

So therefore, any attempt to push the present electricity difficulties at the door step of President John Mahama and his NDC government will only be an exercise in futility.

In much the same manner, attempts by some people to intentionally call for the head of the managers of the various utility providing organizations, especially the hardworking VRA boss, Mr Kirk Coffie, will collapse like pack of cards.

This is so because President John Dramani Mahama is not only on top of issues regarding the obnoxious and debilitating dumsor-dumsor facing the country today, but also working hard in tandem with these heads of the utilities to resolve the problems as quickly as possible.

This explains why during his recent travel abroad, he personally took liability for the present erratic power supply in the country, even when he knows the challenges predates his government coming into office.

Background of the Energy Crisis

Ghana’s main source of power generation was the Akosombo Dam. It was constructed under the Nkrumah government with four turbines which were producing 588MW. However, in 1972, the Acheampong government added two turbines which increased the generation capacity to 912MW.

The generation capacity was again increased to 1020 MW under the retrofit project by the Rawlings administration.
The Akosombo dam, however, depends solely on rain water, hence in 2007 when water level in the dam dipped under the then Kufuor administration, the country lost about 600MW, forcing the nation for the first time in its recent history to go through load management.

This forced President Kufuor is his sessional address of February 8, 2007 to announce short to medium term proposals ““to put an end to the embarrassing and expensive load shedding which society and industry have been subjected to over the past six months.”
Apart from the Akosombo dam, the Volta River Authority also operates the Kpong hydroelectric dam which has an installed capacity of 160MW and other thermal plants like TAPCO(T1), 330MW; TICO (T2), 220MW, T3,132MW; TT1PP,110MW; TT2PP,50MW; MRP,80MW and solar 2.5 MW.

This brings the country’s installed capacity that VRA manages to 2104MW or 75 percent of total generation. Installed capacity for Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and Bui Power Authority are: Sunon Asogli, which relies solely on gas, 200MW; CENIT, which uses light crude, with installed capacity of 120MW and 400MW from Bui hydroelectric dam.

In essence, Ghana’s present total installed capacity (minus thermal plants and dams under construction) is 2846.5 MW. Meanwhile, the country’s total energy demand at peak period (6-10pm) is a little under 2000MW whereas non-peak period is between 1600-1700MW.

However, the simple question demanding the answer is why with an installed capacity of 2846MW and a total demand of less than 2000MW, the country is still under load management.

Where Lies the Problem

To provide an answer to this question, there is the need to go back to history to dig where the problem started.

Between 1998 and 2000, following the sudden high demand for electricity as a result of rapid expansion of settlements and industries and fast economic growth, the Energy Commission of Ghana produced a report instructing successive governments to add at least a minimum of not less than 10 percent of the nation’s installed generation capacity annually.

At the time the report was produced, the country’s installed capacity was around 1700MW MW. This means, governments since 2000 ought to have been adding an average of 250MW annually over the past 14 years, and this should have brought the country’s total installed capacity by now to about 7000MW.

But unfortunately and as Mr Casely Hayford put it, “we all went to sleep” as a result of which the country is now paying dearly. The Energy Commission’s recommendation was to cater for the fast growth in population and businesses with its attendant energy demand.

Parts of the problems worsening the energy problem also is our government’s inability to diversify the economy in favour of exports to earn more foreign exchange to lessen the burden in the procurement of crude and gas to power the various thermal plants.
The inability of the West African Gas Pipeline Project to meet its contractual agreement with Ghana with the regular supply of gas to fire some of the thermal plants has also compounded the country’s energy problems.

Other problems that has exacerbated the energy situation in the country apart from the low level of water in Bui and Akosombo is the unexpected breakdown of thermal plants which sometimes coincides with the shutting down of other plants due for routine maintenance thereby, sometimes reducing the nation’s installed capacity to as low as 1500-1600MW without any margin of reserves.
Ominously, over the years Ghanaians have refused to pay “realistic tariffs” even as prescribed by constitutional mandated body like the Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission (PURC).

Even more disturbing is the fact that, utility tariff regime in Ghana has been reduced to political games often, with politicians hiding behind organized labour, political pressure groups and civil society organizations to kick against realistic tariff adjustment thereby forcing governments to capitulate to the people’s demand of no tariff adjustment in the name of political expediency.

Any breather in sight?
Certainly; in spite of these daunting challenge, the country would soon have a sigh of relief as the Mahama-led administration which has considered energy as the main driver of the economy, has projected to add over 1000MW by 2016.

Looking at the numerous Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) so far signed with various IPPs including GE of America (1000MW), the promise by the Chinese to increase the generation capacity of Sunon-Asogli from 200 to 600MW, and other proposed plants coming on stream it wouldn’t be long for Ghana to become a net exporter of electricity.
For those blind to these basic facts and are calling for the heads of managers of the energy sector, the truth of the matter is that they are not the cause and can never be the cause.

Source: The Al-Hajj

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