General News of 2014-05-29

Energy Crisis: Minister calls for prayers

The Minister of Energy Emmanuel Armah Buah has urged Ghanaians to pray to God for enough rains into the dams to deal with the erratic power supply currently plaguing the country.

Pointing out this divine option on Metro TV's Good Evening Ghana program Tuesday, Mr. Buah rallied Ghanaians saying "what we have to do is to pray that this year the rains will come enough for Bui [dam] to give us at least 200 megawatts".

This is not the first time Ghanaians have been asked to pray for rains.

In 2007, a group of Ghanaian pastors impressed by President Kufuor's hope that "God will not allow the Akosombo dam to hang" met to pray for rains when Ghana faced a similar crisis.

Ghana's panacea to the current energy crisis has been laid down to two options - reliance on water to power Akosombo, Kpong and Bui dams or reliance on thermal plants.

The thermal plants need either light crude oil deemed expensive or gas which is expected to be ready by September, the Minister announced.

Funding for light crude is currently not available to VRA. Government has already spent half a billion dollars on procuring the expensive resource.

Ghana's option for some relief is rains, the Minister explained.

"[With] the water levels at Bui right now there is no way it can give us the margins supposed to give us. Bui[dam] is only giving us 90 megawatts, [Instead of the 400 megawatts]. If we overdraw the water we have to shut that plant down," he warned.

Ghana has entered its rainy season and flooding was reported last Tuesday in parts of the country.

"I am praying that the rains will come. We are hoping that the rains will be enough this year," a hopeful Minister of Energy said.

A history of neglect turns to daily regrets

According to the Minister, ever since two dams - Akosombo and Kpong dams - were built in 1962 and 1972 respectively, Ghana has not been able to add significant power to the national grid until crisis beckons.

An energy crisis in the 1990's fueled government's acquisition of a thermal barge in 1997 to support the two dams. And another crisis in 2007 inspired the building of the Bui Dam with a generation capacity of 400 megawatts.

With the current 2012-2014 crisis, there are frantic efforts to get in gas.

Why gas?

"The future of our electricity is going to be thermal generation. Those thermal plants need a lot of gas," Emmanuel Buah told host Paul Adom Otchere.

Ghana gets 55% of its power from hydro and 44.4% from thermal.

The whole enclave of Aboadze Thermal generates 550 megawatts. But 330 megawatts of this amount is off because of a faulty compressor which is expected to be ready in June. Another unit producing 100 megawatts is also faulty.

This has left the Aboadze Thermal plant with only 100 megawatts triggering a crisis.

In addition, powering the thermal plants is also an expensive challenge. Government spent $3million a day for 8 months after Nigeria was unable to supply Ghana gas through the West African Gas pipeline.

Experts agree, buying light crude oil is not sustainable and, therefore, a cheaper alternative of getting gas is the way to go.

This gas is said to be on course.

According to Emmanuel Buah, "120million cubic feets of gas is going to give us 400 megawatts of power...cheap..there will be reduction in tariffs".

Preparing for private sector support

He said the introduction of Independent Power Producers who will use cheap gas will surely reduce the cost of electricity "dramatically".

"This year we have signed about 5 IPPs and a process that will take them one year, we have shortened it and some of them have finished in three months....because we are cutting through the red tape...bringing some urgency," the Minister pointed out.

He said to attract IPPs, huge electricity bills owed by government agencies must be paid. Government has since ordered its agencies and parastatals to be put on pre-paid meters so they take responsibility for their use of power.

The Minister revealed, Ministries, Metropolitan Assemblies, state institutions and agencies have a combined bill of Gh¢ 1bn on government's desk waiting to be settled.

While Ghana waits for IPPs to use cheap gas to reduce cost of power, Ghanaians have been asked to call on God for rains as the best short-term measure against the frustrating erratic power.

Source: myjoyonline
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