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General News of Wed, 27 Jul 201613

PURC queries power companies over current challenges

The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) yesterday held a crunch meeting with the three power companies to ascertain why power consumers are still experiencing power outages.

The meeting, which was at the behest of the PURC, was attended by representatives of the Volta River Authority (VRA), the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).

The PURC queried the stakeholders in the power sector over the current power supply situation.

According to the Director of Public Relations and External Affairs of the PURC, Nana Yaa Jantuah, the meeting also afforded the PURC the opportunity to determine the amount of money that had accrued to the three providers from the tariff increases which came into effect in December 2015.

She told the Daily Graphic in an interview in Accra yesterday that the excuse by power producers that fuel was not available was untenable, especially when the country had enjoyed reliable power from January to June 2016.

“If the issue is about fuel and they have taken delivery of some consignment of crude oil to power plants, should they not have made arrangements for strategic reserves to cater for such emergencies?

“Should these managers not have planned ahead to ensure we don’t fall into the short containment of load management?” Ms Jantuah asked.

Present situation

The cut in natural gas supply from Nigeria to the VRA as a result of the government’s indebtedness to N-Gas, as well as the reduction in supply from the Atuabo Gas Plant, has contributed to a reduction in power supply.

But Ms Jantuah was of the view that if managers of the sector had planned well, taking into consideration the erratic nature of gas supply, “we would not have been where we are now to be containing the situation”.

She wondered why a country with an installed capacity of 3,200 megawatts (MW) and a demand of 2,100MW would be shedding load.

“If there are issues with capacity, then it will be understandable to shed load; but we have adequate capacity and we have been informed that some 400,000 barrels of crude oil was being treated to power the plants. If the treatment is supposed to take eight days, should consumers not have some respite by now?” Ms Jantuah asked.

The Chairman of the Load Management Committee, Mr William Amuna, had, over the weekend, said the power situation would normalise last Monday. However, consumers woke up yesterday still experiencing power outages.

Asked why the PURC had been silent on the issue of a timetable for consumers to follow, Ms Jantuah said: “In emergency situations, such as the one being experienced, it does not necessarily need a timetable but constant communication from providers to consumers.”

Outcome

Ms Jantuah was, however, tight-lipped over the outcome of the meeting.

According to her, deliberations were for internal processes and the commission would communicate to the public when the need arose.

Representatives of the three providers were unavailable for comment as at press time

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Government’s assurance

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Mr Seth Terkper, has given assurances that the government is working to resolve the current energy challenges, reports Theophilus Yartey.

He told Parliament last Monday when he presented this year’s mid-year budget review that the “government is delivering about 400,000 barrels of light crude oil to feed-stock the dual fuel plants among the lot, while we await the resolution of gas supply bottlenecks”.

“The country’s existing installed capacity of power plants is enough to meet current demand and potential supply should make it even more secure. Nonetheless, despite these major investments, we are not out of the woods yet due to challenges of fuel security,” he said.

Medium-term plans

“In the near-to-medium term, the commencement of commercial operations of the TEN Project in August 2016 and the SGN (OCTP) Project in 2017 will boost the supply of gas in the power sector. First gas for TEN and SGN (OCTP) are expected in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and already the nation is over-subscribed with respect to the number of independent power producers (IPPs) desiring to use our gas to generate power,” he explained.

The minister said the government had made good its promise to deliver key power projects to ease the electricity supply deficit.

He cited some of the projects which were at various stages of completion to the national grid as: the 220MW Kpone Thermal Power Project (KTPP); the 110MW Tico expansion project; the 180MW first half of the Asogli Phase 2 Project; the 20MW BXC solar plant; the 225MW Karpowership and the 250MW AMERI plant.

Mr Terkper cautioned that in order to sustain the progress made in the power sector, “it is necessary for us to ensure that the management of the power sector does not continue with the ‘business as usual’ attitude”.

He said there was the need to bring significant improvement in the financing and operations of the sector, particularly the electricity processing and distribution sector.

“We have already spoken about the use of the levies under the Energy Sector Levies Act 2015 (Act 899) to restructure VRA’s debt, which is already underway,” he said.

Electricity sub-sector

Regarding the electricity sub-sector, he said the proposed restructuring of the sub-sector would bring about improvement in operations.

“The second compact of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA Compact 2), with a grant amount of US$498.2 million, is being dedicated to this purpose,” he added.

The funds are being used to strengthen the energy sector and make the sector self-sufficient, particularly the electricity distribution sector.

. “We have continued to pursue our programme of extending electricity supply to all communities. In the last four years, 2,861 communities have been connected to the national grid.

“This has pushed access to electricity in Ghana from 80.5 percent at the end of 2015 to 82.34 percent as of June 2016, the highest in West Africa and second only to South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa,” he explained.

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