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General News of Thursday, 11 December 2014

Source: Graphic.com.gh

More power cuts in 2015

It is now becoming clearer that Ghanaians will have to brace themselves up for a more challenging power situation next year. This is because the country’s major power production plant, the Akosombo Dam, is already running below its capacity. It is running five of its six units.

The situation has been worsened by an overdraft on the water reserves of the dam, which was done in anticipation of a rise in the water level to compensate for the usage from the reserves.

But the status of water inflow, coupled with the period next year, when, if any, plentiful rains may resolve the drought facing the main dam and extend supply to the reserves, could place power generation at a very challenging ebb.

The Planning and Business Development Officer of the Volta River Authority (VRA), Mr Kofi Ellis, in explaining the power supply plan for 2015 to the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) in Accra yesterday said, “2015 is going to be a relatively difficult year.”

The meeting had been called at the instance of the AGI, who had invited the stakeholders in the power generation, supply and distribution chain, to explain the nature of the power situation to its members.

Another factor which threatens to cripple the operations of the VRA is its indebtedness to the banks and the debt owed it by the ECG.

Mr Ellis said, “we owe every single bank in the country because we do not get the money we need to buy the crude that we need for production”.

The ECG, he said, owed the VRA GH¢1 billion in unpaid bills for the supply of power, which had been distributed and consumed but the ECG continued to blame its inability to pay the debt on the excuse that the government had failed to service debts owed it.

Mr Ellis also said the VRA’s debt situation could also be ascribed to the injustice of the system of payment for the various members in the power generation, supply and distribution process.

According to him, the money generated by the ECG in the local currency was converted to dollars and first used to pay the foreign independent power producers (IPPs), before the remainder, if any, was used to pay the local chain members, with the VRA being at the tail end of the receiving line.

Mr Ellis said the coming on stream of the Jubilee Gas should not elicit any expectation in Ghanaians that more power would be generated because the gas was not meant for additional generation of power.

The Jubilee Gas, he said, was to help power the machines of the VRA and thereby, help reduce the relatively higher amount of money used in the purchase of crude for the same purpose.

By 2020, Mr Ellis said, the Jubilee Gas would be exhausted and the country would have to revert to the purchase of expensive crude unless the Sankofa and Tweneboah-Enyera-Ntomme (TEN) projects come on stream by 2019.

He added that the machines at Akosombo Dam had been serviced to run efficiently for the next 30 years, with those at Akuse being worked on currently. He said barring all challenges, the dam would operate at full capacity if the flow of water normalised.

Going forward, he said, the demand for power would keep growing and stressed the need to add more generation avenues to step up supply.

But an Energy Economist at the Ghana Energy Commission, Mr Solomon Sarpong, urged the AGI to take advantage of the wholesale electricity market to enter into direct agreement with a wholesale supplier for direct supply in the re-regulated market.

He, however, conceded that the balance sheet of the ECG, the biggest distributor of power in the country, did not provide enough incentive for new power generators to come on board.

Four projects, he added, totalling 1,700 megawatts, including power barges, were being pursued by the government, so if those projects were delivered on schedule, the power situation would be normalised in 2015.

The Director of Systems Operations at the National Grid Company (GRIDCo), Mr Bernard Tawia Modey, advised industries to install capacitor banks within their facilities so that energy that went into reactive power could be replaced by active power.

That way, he said, the nation could save 200 MW without generating additional power and that could help curtail the current load shedding.

He also expressed optimism that the power situation could get better before Christmas because GRIDCo expected some power-generating units to come on stream before then.

Industry players at the meeting expressed grave and varied concerns on the negative tolls that the current power regime was having on their businesses and pledged to take proactive steps to address the challenges in a comprehensive manner.