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Nationwide Blackout - PURC Wants Answers
 
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28-Feb-2012  
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The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) has summoned the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) to an emergency meeting today to discuss the erratic power supply in the country.

The decision follows the increasing spate of nationwide blackouts, including the one experienced on Sunday.

The Head of Public Affairs of the PURC, Nana Yaa Jantuah, told the Daily Graphic in an interview that officials of the commission would seek to make proposals to the government on the need to invest in GRIDCo.

That, according to her, was to ensure that the increasing failure of the power generating and distribution equipment of the two companies was properly addressed.

“The total blackout as a result of system failure calls for an immediate strategy towards rescuing the power distributor,” she said.

Almost the entire country was plunged into total darkness on Sunday night as a result of a broken cable that fell on a power
generator at the Akosombo Switchyard of the VRA.

Information gathered by the Daily Graphic indicates that the VRA has lost a generator in the incident.

The generator has since been isolated, while officials of GRIDCo work tirelessly to restore it.

The cable in question serves as a shield for conductors carrying power in the event that lightning strikes.

The fault, being close to the power generating units, resulted in the outage of all the generators at the Akosombo Generating Station and the resultant loss in power in parts of the country.

The Director of System Operations at GRIDCo, Mr Eric Asare, told the Daily Graphic in an interview that with the Akosombo lines out, the remaining power stations, including that in Takoradi, could not sustain the load.

“Akosombo is the biggest generating station and once it goes off, the rest cannot sustain themselves,” he said.

He said to restore power supply, the snapped cable was cleared, but it caused considerable damage to auxiliary equipment at the station.

The blackout, which occurred about 7 p.m. on Sunday, left seven regions in total darkness.

As of 9 a.m. on Monday, several areas were without electricity, but Mr Asare said GRIDCo had worked hard to restore power to
almost every part of the country.

He said in addition to the generator which was being worked on, the Takoradi Substation was yet to be restored.

“All this has culminated in a shortfall in power generated for our customers. We, therefore, asked the ECG to take off some areas in order not to stress the system,” he added.

He, however, gave an assurance that latest by 2 p.m. yesterday, the situation would have been restored to normalcy.

Mr Asare said although obsolete equipment which caused the power outage was being replaced, the difficulty was that the same equipment was supplying power to the country.

“It is not as fast because it is not like a contractor doing a completely new installation. These substations are also delivering power and so we have a limitation regarding how many we can take out of service at a time for maintenance work,” he stated.

He gave an assurance that the company would continue with consistent maintenance to ensure that blackouts were minimised.
Sunday’s blackout was not the only time almost the entire country had been plunged into total darkness.

On January 22, this year, a similar blackout hit parts of seven regions of the country and it was attributed to an explosion which occurred during the installation of a new circuit breaker at the Volta Substation in Tema.

In December last year, a nation-wide power outage which lasted close to four hours was attributed to the explosion of one of the breakers in the switch room of the VRA.

A similar one also lasted almost 30 minutes on May 21, 2003 just when the then acting Chief Executive Office of the VRA, Mr Jabesh Amissah-Arthur, had taken over from Dr Charles Wereko-Brobbey.

According to a World Bank report, Africa requires 7,000 megawatts of new power generation capacity yearly but it instals only 1,000MW per year. The entire generation capacity is 68GW, on level with Spain, while 25 per cent of the installed capacity is idle, owing to ageing plants and poor maintenance.

Ghana's situation is not different. As the country’s population increases and living standards improve, one of the biggest challenges confronting the government is to generate power adequately to meet the growing energy demand of customers.

Years of under-investment resulting from non-cost recovery tariffs in the power generation, transmission and distribution networks has made it very difficult for the ECG to deliver reliable power to its more than two million customers.
 
 
 
Source: Della Russel Ocloo & Seth J. Bokpe/D Graphic
 
 

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