I'll Resign If ... - Energy Minister

Kofi Adda 03.07

Mon, 18 Jun 2007 Source: The Statesman

Embattled Energy Minister Joseph Kofi Adda has told The Statesman in an exclusive interview he will step down if his plan to end the current load-shedding exercise is not successful. Mr Adda presented the plan to Parliament last week, leading to a heated encounter on Monday when NDC Deputy Minority Leader Doe Adjaho called for the Minister to resign, saying he had "failed” Ghana by not solving the energy crisis. “If someone can stand up and prove this plan can't work, that it isn"t worth the paper it’s printed on, I would step down. I would consider I had failed the country” Mr Adda told the paper in an exclusive interview. But Mr Adda may not get a chance to back-up his bold words. A ministerial reshuffle is expected very soon and there is speculation he may not make the cut. But such a change would not sit kindly with Mr Adda.

“One of the biggest problems we have in this ministry has been high turnover of ministers. It’s not giving anybody continuity or consistency in order to solve these problems. You’re barely here and than you’re out”. He fumed, adding, “I’ve been around for just a little over a year. The most ideal thing would be to follow through on this one and make sure we see the results, otherwise who will be held accountable?”

If the Minister does indeed dodge the bullet, and remains in control of the portfolio he is confident the crisis will end soon. “We are expecting come the end of September we will see the end of the load shedding arrangement” he says. At that point Mr Adda says all 392 MW of short-term generation capacity the NPP government has contracted will be fully functional.

The Minister also held out hope the load-shedding may be eased if rainfall is heavy enough. Mr Adda says a recent seven-day period showed the water level remained steady at the Akosombo Dam for four days, and during the following two days the level actually edged up “slightly”.

A continuance of that trend could eat into the nation’s current 300MW deficit - an amount equal to roughly 20-percent of demand - and according to Mr Adda might allow Ghanaians more access to electricity, perhaps a return to the period when the nation was without power for 12 hours every five days.

“At every [weekly] meeting we look at the supply and demand and see where we are with it, and certainly when we see the deficit reducing drastically we can begin to review the load shedding arrangement” he says, adding if the amount of water running into the lake jumped by roughly 50-percent Ghanaians could receive more electricity as early as August. The Minister did caution citizens not to expect anything drastic, "we have to take care so that the water coming into the lake now doesn’t just get wasted away and we’re back to square one" he warned.

Mr Adda says his plan will also keep Ghana in control of its generation assets. He points to the last energy crisis when the NDC attempted to address the issue by renting power-plants from various private companies. In 1998 three of the companies contracted by the NDC failed to generate any power, but demanded payment. Ghana is still fighting a $20-million lawsuit over the issue.

And unlike the previous Government, who he feels was short-sighted, the Energy Minister says even his immediate plan gives Ghana some breathing space. The current short-term plan is expected to help the nation generate 100 MW more than it currently needs. Mr Adda says that cushion would last for "about a year," adding, government intends to "stay ahead of demand".

The Minister also addressed the issue of blackouts which last longer than the proscribed 12 hours, reminding Ghanaians that even before the current crisis periodic blackouts occurred, often due to the regular maintenance of power lines. He says that maintenance is still needed, and can cause the extra-long delays.

Mr Adda did acknowledged some of the extra-long blackouts have been caused by his government’s problem in keeping existing thermal plants running smoothly. But he assured the public this was unlikely to be an issue with the new thermal plants since they were "relatively smaller" than the existing structures which can need two days to cool before they can be serviced.

As for the complaints that some Ghanaians feel they are paying the same amount of money for less electricity Mr Adda admitted he wasn’t aware of the issue but told Ghanaians to look at their readings very carefully, and confirm them with the metre readers.

"Certainly, if you are failing to have power for 12 hours over a two or three day period, one expects that your [bills] are going to be lowered by a corresponding rate, and if it’s still the same, you should question that".

Mr Adda also confirmed Government plans to de-regulate the transmission sector. And the Minister unveiled details of a plan to partially deregulate the generation sector as well. Saying that "the policy of this government has always been to encourage privatisation," the Minister revealed the nation hopes to add up to 1,800 MW in the next year and a half through co-operation with the private sector.

Mr Adda says such a move would not put the people of Ghana at the mercy of the open market, as the PURC would still set tariff rates. The NPP believes by allowing private companies to compete with the Volta River Authority and the soon to be created Bui Power Authority the nation’s generation costs would fall.

"No public generating entity is going to be sheltered", the Minister promised adding the two government owned entities would be forced to succeed on their own merits.

With a goal of bringing at least 1700 MW on line within the next 18 months it seems as if Mr Adda has more than enough on his plate to keep him busy through to the next election, that is if President Kufour believes his beleaguered Energy Minister is still the man for the job.

Source: The Statesman
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