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Opinions of Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Columnist: Alhaji Mustapha Iddrisu

Let's welcome arrival of Karpower barges with funfair but ...

It is refreshing news that the Karpower Barge is cruising to Ghana from Turkey. The 225 Megawatt barge will be adding to the thermal generation stock of about 1,265MW.

The second barge which has been retrofitted to generate about 400MW is expected by the first quarter of 2016 from the same source. The projection is that this will augment the electricity generation in Ghana. It is also reported that ten generators of 25MW each have already been brought into the country from Dubai, representing a total of 250 MW.

The irony is that all these plants are going to be fuelled with either lean gas, light crude oil or diesel. Supplies of lean gas from Ghana Gas and Nigeria Gas have been erratic because of technical glitches and financial challenges. The light crude oil is the most expensive source which is beyond the country's financial reach. Hence, fuelling these thermal plants would remain a major obstacle. The debt quagmire in the power value chain is also crippling the power sector.

Unfortunately, the power barges may not be the panacea to the electricity crisis unless enough financial muscle is garnered through effective revenue mobilisation, and realistic electricity tariffs at the downstream power sector. This will make the country secure reliable and uninterrupted gas to guarantee regular electricity supply.

Another way of avoiding our over-reliance on thermal generation is to diversify the generation mix further to include more renewable sources and "clean coal technology". Clean coal technology makes coal utilisation environmentally efficient and still remains the cheapest source of electricity generation. In fact, about half of global electricity generation is derived from coal.

Energy Policy & Research Institute (EPRI) does not subscribe to a school of thought that expressed the view that Ghana does not need additional power generations. Ghana needs an adequate reserve margin to supply regular and reliable electricity. By international standards, from 20? to 35? of the reserve margin is required to put any country into comfortable supply zone.

Ghana has also set a generation target of 5,000MW capacity by 2016. The aim is to make the country a hub for electricity generation as well as a net exporter of electricity in the West African Sub-Region. The government is geared towards achieving this remarkable milestone with the above interventions.

However, we need to focus more vigorously on the Gas master plan designed by the Ministry of Petroleum in conjunction with the Ministry of Power for sustainable electricity supply in Ghana and beyond.

Alhaji Mustapha Iddrisu
Energy Policy Analyst
EPRI