General News of Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Source: Daily Graphic

End of load shedding: VRA, GRIDco give different dates

Consumers of power have to brace themselves up for more blackouts as the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) provide different periods for the probable end to the load-shedding programme.

While GRIDCo has stated the end of April as the probable date to normalise power supply to Ghanaians, the VRA is projecting some time in May.

Ghanaians have, since August 2012, been hit by an erratic power supply as a result of a major fault on one of the pipelines supplying gas from Nigeria to help generate electricity in the country.

Since then, a number of deadlines or periods for the end of the current load shedding have been changed from one month to another.

But there is hope in sight, as the Bui Power Authority (BPA) promises to add 133.33 megawatts from its first generation unit by the end of March this year to boost the national grid.

With that boost, Ghanaians expect that the canker referred to in local parlance as "Dum so, Dum so " will minimise.

The national energy distributor, GRIDCo, however, hopes that the situation should normalise by the end of April this year, although the main energy generator, the VRA, has pegged May as the time when the challenges of power generation and distribution could normalise.

Officials of the West African Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCo) also hope that gas supply from Nigeria to Ghana will be restored by the end of April to give the power generation firms more energy to generate electricity.

According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GRIDCo, Mr Charles Darku, the current generation inadequacy was likely to prolong the crisis until the end of April this year.

That, he said, would be informed by the inauguration of GRIDCo's new substation at Kintampo, the Takoradi Thermal Three (T3) project and the resumption of gas supply from WAPCo.

He told the Daily Graphic yesterday that generation inadequacy had seen a 25 per cent deficit in the reserve margin.

"Reserve margins have been eaten into and, therefore, we will need an additional 200 megawatts to make up for the shortfall," Mr Darku said.

He said for stability in power supply, there must always be some 2,250 power reserve capacity to cater for the inadequacies in the system.

He further intimated that the increased demand for power required the generation of at least 200 megawatts annually, noting, however, that the "lack of investment in the sector over the past years has brought us where we are today".

Mr Darku took a swipe at officials of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) for being unprofessional in their approach to power rationing.

The ECG had, on Monday night, cut power supply to most parts of Accra and its environs due to what its officials said was a directive from GRIDCo to shed an additional 400 megawatts across the country.

The company blames its inability to follow its own scheduled timetable for load rationing across the country on GRIDCo.

Mr Darku, who took exception to the ECG's accusation, said the decision to instruct for the shedding off of the additional 400 megawatts was informed by trips on the generating systems at Aboadze and one of the Akosombo generation systems going off.

Meanwhile, officials of WAPCo have set April 30, this year as the tentative date for the resumption of gas supply to Ghana.

The General Manager in charge of Corporate Affairs at WAPCo, Ms Harriet Wereko-Brobby, who confirmed this to the Daily Graphic, said officials were working fervently to ensure the date was met.

An External Relations Assistant of the BPA, Mr Gabriel Apatu, told the Daily Graphic that plans were far advanced to add the 133.33 megawatts of power to the national energy requirement.

He said one of the three generating units of the BPA would be ready to produce 133.33 megawatts by the end of March this year, while the remaining two generating units would be added to the national grid by June this year.

Meanwhile, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) reports that at a public forum in Tamale on Monday, the Head of the Corporate Communications Unit of the VRA, Mr Samuel Fletcher, urged consumers to brace themselves up for the load-shedding exercise until May.

Presenting an update on the power situation in the country, he said the authority anticipated to add 200 megawatts of power from various power production units across the country to the national grid by May to restore normal power supply.

The forum, organised by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), brought together utility providers, including the VRA, GRIDCo, the Northern Electricity Distribution Company and the Ghana Water Company Limited/Ghana Urban Water Limited (GWCL/GUWL), and consumers from the Northern and Upper East regions to share their concerns and experiences on the quality of utility provision.

Mr Fletcher said work on the pipeline was expected to be completed in May to supply natural gas from Nigeria to the VRA to aid its operations and reduce the cost of power production.

The situation has compelled the VRA to buy light crude oil to power its thermal plants to produce electricity at great cost, without a corresponding increase in revenue.

According to the GNA, documents made available to it by the VRA indicated that the authority spent close to US$3 million daily to run its thermal plants using light crude oil, which was double the cost of using natural gas.

Mr Fletcher said if natural gas did not arrive as expected and "if the VRA continues to sell electricity to the ECG at the current price, then production from our thermal plants would have to be reduced or discontinued and that would mean further load shedding".

He, therefore, called on consumers to collaborate with the VRA to buy more crude oil to produce more electricity to eliminate the load shedding and reduce the financial loss.