Energy conservation, key to sustainable power use in Ghana
The energy crisis in the country has brought forth varying opinions on how to bring the crisis to a halt and prevent any similar unpleasant experiences in future. Ghanaians from all walks of life have contributed to discussions on the issue on radio, television, in newspapers and social media among other networks.
If the country should in the long run be able to generate enough power to meet the current shortfalls in the system and bring to an end the current load-shedding which is negatively affecting households and businesses, then the issue of energy conservation must be taken seriously.
Interestingly, however, in almost all the ongoing public debates the critical issue of energy conservation which is essential for preventing future energy crisis and ensure sustainable power supply in the country, is barely mentioned.
Power generation sectors, especially the construction of dams and other power plants are capital intensive, for which reason most private sector players are not willing to enter into that area. In Ghana, the Volta River Authority (VRA) still dominates the power generation sector with only few independent power producers such as Asogli power, SSNIT and TAQA at Aboadze.
Despite the recent addition of 130 MW of power from the T3 Plant and the expected 133 MW of power from the Bui Dam, as well as the repair of the West African Gas Pipeline, all the beautiful ideals to make Ghana an energy hub on the West Coast by generating 5000 MV of power in the next five years, for example, would become a mirage if government fails to implement a strong energy conservation programme to save the nation millions of dollars from electricity wastage.
With the current 10 per cent growth in nation’s electricity demand annually, the government must invest hundreds of millions of dollars yearly if Ghana is to become self sufficient in power in the medium to long term. Significantly, the nation was able to save about 200MW of power with the switch over from incandescent bulbs to the CFL bulbs which could have cost the nation $190 million dollars if it was to set up a 200MW thermal plant.
Policy and Institutional Reform
A national campaign for energy conservation can significantly help to save substantial amounts of funds which the nation would otherwise not be able to provide readily to invest in fresh energy supply systems. It is imperative that sustained efforts are made to realize this potential. Energy conservation is an objective every Ghanaian should buy into. Households, factories, small shops and large commercial buildings, farmers, office workers and every other power consumer must make this effort for their own benefit and that of the nation.
In view of the fact that the efficient use of energy and its conservation provide the most cost-effective option to mitigate the gap between demand and supply, the Government should consider enacting an Energy Conservation Act which would be implemented by the Energy Commission (EC). The mission of the Commission should be to develop policy and strategies with a thrust on self regulation and market principles, within the overall framework of the EC Act with the primary objective of reducing energy intensity in the Ghanaian economy.
The EC Act should provide for institutionalizing and strengthening mechanisms for energy efficiency services in the country and provide the much-needed co-ordination between the various entities. Important features of the Energy Conservation Act should include the evolving of minimum energy consumption standards for equipment and appliances; prohibiting the manufacture, sale and import of equipment and appliances that do not conform to standards; and the introduction of mandatory labelling to enable consumers to make informed choices.
Additionally, the Government should prepare guidelines on energy conservation building codes (ECBC) which would be modified by District Assemblies to suit local conditions. The programme must be applicable to new buildings that have a connection load of 500 kW or more.
Households form the bulk of energy consumers in Ghana using about 73 per cent of the total power generated in the country. This is followed by the mining sector with 13 per cent of energy consumption, seven per cent for the Northern Electrification sector and another seven per cent for the rest of the consumers.
Reasons for higher energy use in Ghana include the use of obsolete and energy inefficient appliances and machines in the system. To promote the adoption of energy efficient processes, they are identified as designated consumers under schedule to the Energy Conservation Act. By complying with various provisions of the EC Act, the conduct of regular energy audits and implementation of techno-economic viable recommendations, as well as the establishment of energy management systems through the appointment of certified energy managers, would boost the adoption of energy efficient practices and technologies.
The Energy Commission should undertake energy audit in Government buildings to set an example so that private buildings would also pursue similar measures of discipline in energy consumption. These should include Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies, and tertiary educational institutions among others. It has been estimated that this check if well implemented, would save the nation between 10 and 15 per cent of current energy use that would have gone wasted through inefficiency.
Moreover, the government should ensure that modern industrial plants that would be installed in Ghana have excellent energy efficiency characteristics comparable to the best energy efficient plants anywhere in the world. Steel plants in Ghana, for example, must undergo a process of modernization to adopt energy efficient practices. The use of fluidized bed boilers and furnaces, variable frequency drives, energy efficient pumps, fans, compressors and cooling towers should be employed in Ghanaian industries.
Energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts are penetrating the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors at a very fast rate. The strict observance of standards and a consistent labelling regime under the EC Act will further boost manufacturing and adoption of energy efficient technologies.
The increasing demand for commercial energy has led to a sharp increase in the demand for electricity and fossil fuels. The use of fossil fuels has resulted in emissions of huge quantities of carbon dioxide, causing serious environmental problems. There is a considerable potential for a reduction of this menace through the adoption/implementation of efficient policy measures at various levels to instil energy discipline.
An effective energy efficiency regime will not only curtail the need for expanded capacity and the provision of additional infrastructure that would require substantial investment, but would also result in significant environmental benefits. The efficient use of energy and its conservation would succeed as a remedy only if policy-makers, captains of industry and opinion leaders take the lead in supporting conservation rules and processes.
By Christopher Arko