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Opinions of Sunday, 16 October 2022

Columnist: Kofi Abrefa Afena

Keeping the lights on amid exogenous shocks; Matthew Opoku Prempeh the trailblazer

Energy Minister, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh Energy Minister, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh

At a recent interview on Asempa FM’s late afternoon political talk show ‘ekosiisen’ where Energy Minister, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, affectionately called ‘NaPo’ was asked by a listener about the magic wand he seem to wield, which makes him overcome challenges and leave imprints wherever he finds himself as Minister, his response for me, was intriguing.

He simply said, the magic wand is God. Sitting by him in the studios together with Adentan NPP Parliamentary candidate hopeful and senior brother, Kwasi Obeng-Fosu, I was not surprised because as the avid Christian he is; a member of the Maker’s House Chapel International, Dr. Prempeh acknowledges that the strength, excellence, resilience and the competence with which he discharged his duties in the past as Education Minister and now as Energy Minister, was as a result of a supernatural unction.

Immediately, a favourite christian anonymous quote of mine began to struck and bite my thoughts and into further sobriety, as the venerable Minister and my boss, kept dishing out plain answers to the host of the show, OB and Ghanaians.

The quote - “Between the periods, “thus sayeth the Lord” and “it came to pass” are consistency, determination, hard work and prayer”. In essence, it could be God’s will that, Dr. Prempeh will be successful in his work as Minister but in reality, his consistency, determination and hard work has been key determinants in actualizing the magic wand he faithfully, attributes to God.

His work attitude certainly will not pass unnoticed. This positive attitude, I suspect is underpinned by his agreement with the words of a former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice - “There’s no greater challenge and there is no greater honour than to be in public service.”

He must, thus, work diligently in whatever capacity he is entrusted in public service to bring the needed comfort to the ruled. For NaPo, public service is nothing short of a sacred duty.

Power Sector

Dr. Prempeh assumed the role as Energy Minister with a clear appreciation of the sensitivity of the energy sector as a key backbone for our national economy. He sees the period between 2013 and 2016 when Ghana reeled under pervasive power cuts popularly known in Ghanaian parlance as ‘Dumsor’, which brought so much frustration, the collapse of businesses and many losses, as a blot on Ghana’s history which must never relapse.

Indeed, he knew that the biggest expectation of the Ghanaian citizen is power stability for domestic and industrial use. In spite of this awareness and his preparedness for the important task ahead, his first days in office were greeted with some power outages. For the skeptics, this was going to be NaPo’s malignant nemesis as the arriving protagonist.

But really, this was never going to be the Manhyia South law maker’s scourge nor his ‘hamartia’ because of the preponderance of technically incontrovertible facts. He was unfazed. Pardon my love for English Literature.

These outages were largely as a result of infrastructural upgrades on power lines which have been used since time immemorial up to present day Ghana. Dr. Prempeh looked Ghanaians in their eyes with utmost candour and explained that the outages were necessary to allow for these repair works and upgrades.

“Dumsiesie” was the catch phrase he coined to make Ghanaians understand fully, the necessity of the situation and asked for forbearance. According to Information Minister, Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the Wesley Girls people and their ‘nkyekyeho’ taking a cue from NaPo said it was “Dumfix”.

In effect “Y3redum asiesie” (putting off to repair). Because, whilst fellow human beings were on the lines working, it would be unconscionable to want the lights on for them to be electrocuted. From a political communications perspective, that was a masterstroke. There was no shortage in generation capacity. Our plants were also being powered without hinderances.

These times, tested Dr. Prempeh’s leadership character at the Energy Ministry. He spent manly hours keeping taps on the power sector players, notably, those in charge of the grid and the distributors for periodic updates on the exercise to a point of recognized stability.

Mindful of patronage and sycophancy in this political enterprise as espoused copiously in the writings of Italian political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, he is not the type of political leader who would accept whatever one tells him hook, line and sinker, just because it is mellifluous to his ears.

For example, on the issue of Ghana’s generation capacity, which was the basis for the signing of arbitrary Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) by the NDC government for which reason we are paying needless excess capacity charges which is a burden on the tax payer, Dr. Prempeh continues to hold the technical people to account, to provide realistic and accurate projections on our total installed capacity, available capacity and peak demand with supporting data analysis for his visionary planning.

The Minister in the face of our total installed capacity of 5, 288MW and projected system peak of 3,246MW (as of March, 2022), which makes it impossible for us to run in to capacity shortage is keeping a close marking on various power projects which will add to our generation when they come on stream. This is why he says without fear of contradiction that “‘Dumsor’ will never be back”.

This certainty is further accentuated by the fact that, he is seeing to the robustness of the cash water fall mechanism and gas clearing house; policies which will ensure the liquidity of power sector players, reducing inter-utility indebtedness.

These are strategic anti-power sector financial challenges measures since it is so obvious that the 2013-2016 power tragedy was purely as a result of financial challenges.

Under Dr. Prempeh’s watch, the Ghanaian tax payer can be assured of a more sustainable and value-driven approach to PPA contracting, anchored on only ‘Take and Pay’, no government guarantees, no tax exemptions and a cap on energy tariff. We can also go to bed knowing that tariffs will be denominated in Ghana pesewas as well as the provision of bank liquidity support. This is nothing but absolute LEADERSHIP!

Nana Poku (NaPo) oy3ade3yie’s energy has consistently been channeled through the improvement of Grid stability, the improvement of power supply reliability, key amongst this being the relocation of the AMERI power plant to Kumasi and the rationalization of electricity tariffs together with the PURC by making the methodology transparent and the tariff structure non-punitive.

Dr. Prempeh is one Minister who has demonstrated from day one, his commitment to making the Electricity Company of Ghana become viable whatever means possible. He is supporting the company curb commercial losses, technical losses, collection losses and system losses which is plaguing it.

He relaunched the ECG revenue protection taskforce in September 2021, this time with a very clear mandate to identify power theft and recover debt across consumers, a mandate they continue to prosecute with the required direction. This immense support has also been extended to NEDCo as their viability is equally crucial to the strength of the energy sector.

The Volta River Authority (VRA) on the wings of Dr. Prempeh is back on sound footing, recording in 2021, profit of GH¢112.76m for the first time in 9 years and after 6 continues years of losses. Goodness! Under Dr. Prempeh, Cabinet has approved for the inclusion of nuclear energy in our generation mix, actualizing Ghana’s dream hinged on his absolute commitment to the sustainable availability of all forms of power to propel our industrialisation drive.

NaPo is working tirelessly to increase the current national electricity access rate of 87.03% to a universal access by the end of term of this administration and therefore leading efforts also at scaling up renewable energy to be a critical facet of our generation mix.

On-going renewable energy projects include 38 mini grids,35,000 Solar Home Systems (SHS) for off grid communities and 12,000 Net Metering PV for SMEs/Public Buildings/SHS. It also includes BUI Solar of 150 MW, Jubilee House Solar Phase II to a total of 912 KW as well as ongoing PPA negotiations/discussion between ECG and Lekela on 225MW and EleQtra on 50MW wind

Petroleum Sector and Energy Transition

In the face of disruptions in global supply chain and palpable crisis, where there have been recorded shortages of petroleum products in parts of the world, even including the UAE, Dr. Prempeh continues to ensure the availability of petroleum products for the Ghanaian consumer.

He has engaged and continues to engage the Bank of Ghana to assist in the securing of forex, the issuance special forex auctions for the petroleum industry and also seeing to the establishment of a credit reference bureau for all Dealers, OMCs, BDCs, IOTCs and other stakeholders. Also worth noting are the arrangements put in place to allow International Oil Trading Companies & Contractors to bring on land, petroleum products and hold titles to these products.

This Energy Minister further continues to show keen interest in the activities of the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company (BOST) ensuring they live up to their mandate of holding up to 6 weeks of strategic stocks for our country.

BOST, basking fervently in this ministerial ambience has for the first time in so many years recorded a profit before tax of GHC164m in 2021, from a previous figure of GHC2m, from the period of recurrent losses. The Minister has instructed the company to make frantic efforts at extricating itself from the quagmire of protracted debts.

This is simply NaPo’s midas touch!

As Dr. Prempeh continues to oversee through the Petroleum Hub Development Corporation, the implementation of the Petroleum Hub agenda, where Ghana aspires to become a hub for refined petroleum products and petrochemicals in the West African sub-region, he has never lost sight of the strategic importance of a local oil refinery within the overarching context of our downstream petroleum sector development.

He is thus, working to return the nation’s premier refinery back to work. A strategic partner is in the offing as part of efforts at revamping the refinery.

With 3 offshore and 1 onshore basin currently engaging in active E&P activities, the continued presence of 12 Operators with 14 Petroleum Agreements, 3 Producing fields – Jubilee, TEN and SankofaGyeNyame producing steadily with an average daily production of 150,000bbl/d and 380mmscf/d of gas, Dr. Prempeh continues to ensure the development of our upstream petroleum industry backed by strengthened legal and regulatory framework so that Ghana is not shortchanged.

He is leading a massive investment drive with the PC and GNPC for our hydrocarbon resources through strategic oil and gas roadshows of E&P acreages and farm-in opportunities in the sector to prospective investors.

This drive to position our oil and gas resources for investment is happening at a time where the energy transition conversation continues take center stage of global discussions.

As a leading voice on the subject matter in Africa and beyond, he continues to argue strongly that, the transition conversation must be had within a careful context giving cognisance to our circumstances as a country and by extension, continent. He therefore posits that, we will transit gradually on our own terms, leveraging on our oil and gas resources for economic growth.

The scramble for energy in Europe as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war is a testament of the failure of renewable energy to meet global energy demands. This in Dr. Prempeh’s view means that we need to find a balance between renewable and fossil fuel investments, at least in the short to medium term, hence investment in oil and gas. Under no circumstance, he says, will he watch our country be left with stranded energy assets.

The National Energy Transition Committee under his able direction is thus, working with a clear blue-print that will ensure an energy transition that is the best interest of Ghana, of course cognizant of our international commitments in the Paris Agreement, the UN SDG7 goal and the Call for Action Conference of Parties (COP 26) accord to increase investments in green energy initiatives.

Local Content and Local Participation

For Dr. Prempeh, Local Content is an article of faith. He strongly believes that it is a medium through which local capacities could be built. He postulates that, Government’s policy intention which has basis in the local content law for the upstream sector for example, is that Ghana should not only be the recipient of direct revenues from petroleum operations, but also create value through local participation.

Under his watch therefore, Petroleum (Local Content and Local Participation) (Amendment) Regulations, 2021. (L.I. 2435) has been passed to include channel partnerships and strategic alliances in the sector.

Channel Partnership is where an indigenous Ghanaian company and a non-indigenous Ghanaian company including a distributor, a vendor, a retailer, a consultant, a system integrator, an original equipment manufacturer or a value-added reseller to market and sell the products, services, or technologies of the non-indigenous Ghanaian company in the country.

Strategic Alliance on the other hand is where a Non-Indigenous Ghanaian Company and an Indigenous Ghanaian Company where the responsibilities of each partner are clearly defined and partners agree to share resources to undertake a specific mutually beneficial project while each retains independence.

These options alongside the incorporation of JVCs are to further deepen local content and local participation in the upstream petroleum industry.

Additionally, he is seeing to the review of Draft Regulations for Ghanaian Content and Ghanaian Participation for the downstream petroleum sector. He is keen on ensuring the passage of this law. The Minister also continues to ensure the enforcement of Legislative Instrument (LI 2354) on Local Content and Local Participation in the Electricity Supply Industry passed in 2017. Conclusion

When one makes a fair assessment of the energy sector since the assumption of office of Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh as Minister, it will point clearly, to his unassailable transformational touch.

BOST and VRA are recording profits after years of losses, the anti-theft machinery of the power sector is super charged, there is power stability even when it rains, cats and dogs, a phenomenon most Ghanaians say, is quite unprecedented in our recent history with consistent efforts at ensuring grid stability.

The regulatory muscles of energy sector regulators are being flexed effectively supported by the relevant legal and regulatory regimes for the efficient utilisation of our hydrocarbon and other energy resources and indeed, the visible development in our renewable energy space.

His fiercest antagonists and critics, are on a daily basis eating humble pies openly under no coercion, and absolutely dumfounded at the leadership acumen of Matthew Opoku Prempeh. They are dazed by the fact that, in the midst of our current economic difficulties occasioned largely, by exogenous shocks, the lights are on. Ahwenepa nkasa and it is very much so!

I am convinced without shudder, that the energy sector will see much more phenomenal transformation under his sterling leadership as he continues to work in a determined manner to surmount challenges that confronts the energy sector.

A consummate democrat and leader, I have no shred of doubt that, NaPo will leave behind one day, a power sector that is robust enough to support the economic transformation of our country as well as a petroleum sector that will be viable to support Ghana’s economic growth, where Ghanaians will experience the full benefits of our hydrocarbon resource across the entire petroleum value chain spanning upstream, midstream and the downstream sectors.

On the back of the available evidence, it is abundantly clear that, the transformation we are witnessing in the energy sector points Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh’s impeccable LEADERSHIP. The LIGHTS are on and the NATION IS MOVING and he is currently with His Excellency the President on an Ashanti Regional tour, where he will assist the President to commission a 330kV Kumasi-Bolgatanga Transmission line project.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will also commission the newly constructed Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) Primary Substation, all to improve power supply reliability.

Yes, God is the magic wand, but to make sense of the supernatural, his leadership, lack of inertia and hard work has made all the difference in this 1 year and 6 months at the Energy Ministry. Great Job done Hon. Minister!

NAPO’s Energy at Energy remains the looping aphorism and mantra. He keeps blazing the trail!