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Ghana’s rural electrification programme is insane – World Bank official

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Electricity metersA World Bank official has described Ghana’s electrification expansion programme, especially to rural areas of the country as insane.

According to the official, Ghana’s energy situation is bad and needs infrastructure investment.

Speaking to a group of journalists at a World Bank media briefing in Accra, Dr. Waqar Haider, the Sector Leader, Sustainable Development of the World Bank in charge of Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone said, “Ghana’s rural electrification programme is insane.”

He argues that, at a time when people are queuing for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), and there is power rationing, Ghana is still expanding electricity to rural areas.

The demand for energy is increasing by 12 to 13 per cent per annum but this is not being met in terms of supply. Demand is more than supply.

The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has however indicated that, it would continue to expand the distribution network through the construction of bulk supply points, primary and secondary substations, interconnection lines and pre-payment metering to all urban communities.

The cost of funding energy infrastructure is huge. And no investor would like to invest only to make losses, he says.

Dr. Haider also bemoaned the low electricity tariffs prevailing in the country at the time.

Ghana relies heavily on hydroelectric power. This constitutes 80 percent of total installed capacity. Thermal power sources roughly account for the rest. Ghana’s energy challenge is manifested in her expanding economy and growing population. The country’s population is projected to reach about 25 million according to the Ghana Statistical Survey Population and Housing Census conducted in 2009. Ghana’s population is expected to increase to 29 million in 2015.

The Ghana Energy Development & Access Project (GEDAP), a multi-donor funded Project involving the World Bank – International Development Agency (IDA), Global Environment Facility (GEF), African Development Bank (AfDB), Global Partnership on Output-based Aid (GPOBA), Africa Catalytic Growth Fund (ACGF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SECO) is to improve the operational efficiency of the power distribution system and increase the population’s access to electricity through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The present Rural Electrification programme through grid extensions is aimed at extending electricity power lines to connect about 59,000 new customers in 530 communities in 26 districts in ECG operational areas.

The government of Ghana, through the then Ministry of Energy in January 2009, set objectives to increase power generation capacity from 1,810 megawatts (MW) to 5,000 MW by 2015, and also make electricity accessible to every part of the country by 2020 by enhancing the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity throughout the country.

According to the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, Ghana’s current total power production capacity through the thermal, gas and hydro mix at peak hours is 1,750 Megawatts. Though significant, it is not enough to cater for the country’s vast energy needs.

It is alleged that, about 15 per cent of the power the ECG receives from the VRA is presumably lost through what is termed, ‘line losses’. This is the slight decay resulting from the transmission of electricity across power lines. These losses occur due to the conversion of electricity into heat and electromagnetic energy. Even the most efficiently engineered transmission systems experience these losses, albeit at a significantly reduced rate than reported in Ghana’s case. Reports also suggest that another 15 per cent of electricity generated is lost through non-revenue off-take, or what is commonly known as “illegal connections”.

Speaking at the 3rd Ghana Policy Fair Dialogue Series last year on the theme: Meeting Ghana’s Energy Needs – Current Status and Preparations for the Future, a guest speaker at the event, Mr. Goosie Tanoh said,“over the years, Ghana’s distribution sector has not enjoyed the vast amounts of investment needed to keep it properly functional due to neglect, mismanagement and obsolete energy distribution assets.”

He asserts that, the major consideration for Ghana is the ability of the country to match the rate of electricity demand with adequate supply, as well as the proportion of energy produced for productive use.

According to Tanoh, to help address the environmental and health problems caused by about 90 per cent of rural Ghana who rely on the use of traditional fuel for cooking and heating purposes is to provide some large scale advanced electricity transmission projects.

It is estimated that about 50 per cent of electricity produced in Ghana is consumed by domestic users.

By Pascal Kelvin Kudiabor

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One comment

  1. I hope that the government listens to this and takes it seriously. Ghana has so much potential if sensible infrastructure improvements are made.