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Will Ghana Overcome its New Energy Challenge?

Akosombo Dam; Source – Volta River Authority

Akosombo Dam; Source – Volta River Authority

Ghana has been forced to cope with increased energy shortages as a result of damages to the West African Gas Pipeline, dating back to Aug. 28, 2012. The $1 billion, 650 kilometer long pipeline, built to carry gas from Nigeria to Benin, Togo and Ghana, was severely damaged during an incident between a Togolese Navy ship and an unidentified non-state actor’s ship. Power rationing is now rampant in the country and severely impacting many areas of industry, business and private affairs.

Ghana, the largest recipient of gas from the pipeline imported 123 million cubic feet of gas per day, has sought to counteract the new deficiency. The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum recently added 265 megawatts (MW) to generation: 132MW from the Takoradi 3 Thermal Power Plant and 133 MW from the Bui Hydro Project, which is scheduled to total 400 MW when all the phases are completed by the end of the year. However, more needs to be done.

Head of Corporate Communications at the Volta River Authority (VRA), the state-owned power generating utility, said based on the rate of the economic growth of the country, Ghana needs to produce more energy to meet its needs; demand has been rising at 12-13 percent per year, according to the World Bank. Since 2009 the government has increased the country’s installed electricity capacity from 1,810 to 2,576 MW and President John Mahama has committed to double the installed capacity to 5,000 MW by 2016.

The country needs to demonstrate the ability to match the rate of electricity demand with adequate supply, as well as the proportion of energy produced for productive use. Ghana’s primary energy source today is from hydropower totaling more than 1,000 MW, accounting for about 80 percent of electrical output. Thermal power sources approximately account for the rest.

A key component of the plan to ramp up electricity generation is to utilize the gas that will be brought to shore from the Jubilee Oil Field via a pipeline that is under construction and is expected to be completed in September. The field, some 65 km off the south west coast in the Gulf of Guinea, came online in December 2010. Then it was producing 55,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) and now it is producing over 100,000 bpd; it has pumped out more than 65 million barrels cumulatively.

Oil and gas money has been a new source of income but it also has stirred lots of debate, with some worrying the government will not properly allocate the new found wealth. The government has consistently maintained the proceeds would be fairly distributed and other related matters handled to benefit the country rather than being seen as a curse.

Ghana is also a country rich in solar radiation and there has been a growing commitment to produce electricity from a domestic asset. President John Mahama inaugurated Ghana’s first 2 MW solar energy plant in Navrongo in the Upper East Region last Thursday. When the facility is expanded from the six photovoltaic arrays, covering 9.6 acres of land to an output of 2.5 MW, only Cape Verde will be home to a larger solar project in West Africa.

President Mahama hailed the project at the inauguration and mentioned that the government is trying to stem the load sharing and he is taking multiple approaches. Mr. Mahama made sure to state that citizens need to pay a “realistic” cost for electricity so the VRA and Electricity Company of Ghana could produce more power.

Recently, Japan’s Ambassador to Ghana, Naoto Nikai joined the movement urging more investment in solar energy. In 2010, Japan provided a 610 million yen (about 6 million USD) grant for the first phase of a 315 kilowatt solar electric system at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra. Mr. Nikai stated, in Ghana, where the sun is bright and shines throughout the year, solar power is an appropriate option.

Despite the relative small projects when comparing to developed nations, these successful efforts have already sent signals Ghana is ready for larger scale projects. In fact, CEO of the VRA, Kweku Awotwi mentioned there is an agreement and funding secured for a 12 MW Solar photovoltaic (PV) plant slated to start construction later this year.

Ghana’s energy strategy sets a goal of renewable energy constituting 10 percent of national energy generation by 2020. To reach this goal, the parliament passed the Renewable Energy Act, providing the legal and regulatory framework necessary for enhancing and expanding the country’s renewable energy sector.

To achieve the country’s needs and targets, it needs large sums of infrastructure investment. It also needs to overcome the challenge presented from its growing population and economy.

Mr. Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, Minister of Energy and Petroleum relayed that the ministry has undertaken studies on the feasibility of providing renewable energy throughout the country to meet the energy needs. The Minister said, “Our vision to generate 5,000 megawatts of electricity by 2016 is on course and the only way to achieve that is to diversify into wind and solar that are less expensive and more reliable in terms of domestic and industrial consumption.”




Joe Gurowsky
Joe Gurowsky

Joe Gurowsky focuses on energy, environment, geopolitics, trade, international development and climate related issues. Recently, he worked in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania regarding different energy related programs . Joe has also traveled to Costa Rica, Ghana, the UAE, Germany and Alberta, Canada for aspects of energy and environmental policy.

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