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Business News of Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Source: B&FT

Too many “Chiefs” in energy sector

Former Volta River Authority boss Dr. Charles Wereko Brobby has taken a swipe at the handlers of the energy sector, saying the panacea to the energy crisis is not the creation of many institutions with CEOs, cars and boards.

“It looks as if any time we have problems, we throw institutions at them [the problems],” he said at a lecture on “Sustaining Energy Provision in Ghana: From Plans to Action”, in memory of the late John Kofi Turkson.

In his view, lack of coherence in energy policy-making is a result of too many institutions with CEOs and large vehicles is at the core of the energy crisis in the country, the blunt engineer and politician told journalists after the lecture.

Take Eskom of South Africa for example, he argued in his lecture: the company single-handedly produces about 45% of Africa’s energy while Ghana, with its ECGs, VRAs, GRIDCos and Commissions, manages a measly 2.5% of what Eskom sells.

“Eskom sells about 200,000 gigawatt hours of power annually. In 2009, Ghana sold just under 5,000, 2.5% of what Eskom sells; and guess what, in Ghana we have VRA, GRIDCo, Tico, Esco and Blaco...all with their Chief Executives, boards, directors, cars... to produce 2.5% of what ESKom is doing. That is why I say too many Chiefs, and all they do is to try to deflect problems away from themselves. ECG says it’s not me and VRA says it’s not me...and because of this, we are not getting a holistic view of our power sector,” he said.

Asked whether there was need for some of the institutions to be collapsed, he said: “We should just have one power authority. You can have operating centres; you can have the generation division of the national power authority, hydro division, thermal division...”

Asked again, whether he did anything markedly different in his time as CEO of the Volta River Authority, his answer was simply this: “I pushed through a lot of things, and the most important is that you never slept in darkness when I was the boss.”

What the energy sector needs, he said, is “integrated thinking which doesn’t come from everybody protecting their turf which is a really a serious problem,” and also politicians moving away from the “chest-beating” and putting in the necessary investments.

The energy sector, he said, needs to be opened-up for Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to come in; and to do so, government needs to develop the ground rules for competition so that the national power utility does not push its weight around. And then government must also make sure that when the IPPs deliver, they are paid.

“If we had allowed IPPs to come in genuinely to deliver the additional power that we need, to deliver the additional transmission we need, and made it worth their while, made sure there was an even playing field, made sure when they supplied they were paid, things would have been much better.”

Dr. John Kofi Turkson, in whose memory the lecture was held, was a senior energy economist who died in a plane crash on January 30, 2000.

He was the younger brother of Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace at the Vatican. He died at the age of 46 in a plane crash off the coast of Abidjan while en route to Uganda as an ambassador of energy economics.

He is remembered for promoting energy-efficient cookstoves in order to relieve users, who are mainly women, of some of the hazards associated with the use of open stoves.

Archbishop Palmer-Buckle, Catholic Archbishop of Accra, who was a special guest of the occasion, paid glowing tribute to Dr. Turkson, saying when he went looking for a Ghanaian he found one in his deceased brother.

He thus advised young people of the country to dream and dream big, and be ready to pay the price to see their dreams come true. By so doing, he said, they will be counted when a Ghanaian is sought.