Frank Annoh-Dompreh writes: Establishing Renewable Energy Authority to expedite exploitation to aid economic recovery post-Covid-19

Annor Dompreh 977x570.png Frank Annor-Dompreh is the Majority Chief Whip and MP for Nsawam-Adoagyiri

Fri, 12 Feb 2021 Source: Frank Annoh-Dompreh

Mr. Speaker, the transition to renewable energy in Africa has accelerated impressively over the last decade with countries like Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa working to increase renewable energy capacity in recent years.

Ghana with its significant renewable resources and robust policy framework cannot afford to be left behind.

A well-resourced and properly constituted renewable resource authority is needed to drive Ghana’s renewable agenda and support post-pandemic recovery through targeted and deliberate action. The time is now!

Mr. Speaker, a report by International Renewable Agency in 2019: ‘Scaling up Renewable Energy Deployment in Africa’, noted that the continent is endowed with substantial renewable energy resources, and it positioned to adopt innovative sustainable technologies and play a leading role in global action to shape the future of sustainable energy.

Ghana is in this position as well.

Mr. Speaker, Several African countries have already taken the steps needed to scale up renewables.

They have adopted support policies and promoted investment and regional collaboration.

Countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa have shown firm commitment towards accelerated use of modern renewable energy and are leading energy transition efforts, while some of Africa’s smaller countries including Cape Verde, Djibouti, Rwanda and Swaziland have also set ambitious renewable energy targets.

Kenya is set to install 1.4 gigawatts, Ethiopia is installing almost 570 megawatts while South Africa installs 3.9 gigawatts of renewable energy.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that two-thirds of the mini-grid and off-grid systems in rural areas would be powered by solar photovoltaics, small hydropower or wind by the year 2040.

Mr. Speaker, according to the Tracking SDG7 Energy Progress Report, Nigeria had the largest electricity access deficit in terms of population globally behind India in 2017 and the highest across all of Africa.

It is no surprise that their investments are targeted at mini and off grid renewable installations.

While hydropower is the main source of renewable energy in Nigeria today, given the risk of drought, the country is looking to diversify its energy resource mix with a strong focus on solar.

Indeed, Nigeria boasts over 2,600 hours of sunlight per year – higher than the global leader in solar power, Germany.

To this end, over the period of 2017 and 2018, Nigeria invested more than US$20bn in solar power projects to boost the capacity of its national grid and reduce overreliance on it by building mini-grids in rural areas without access to electricity.

In a more recent move, in 2020, their government launched a US$75 million grant to encourage off-grid solar projects, while a US$350mn World Bank loan is currently being used to build 10,000 solar-powered mini-grids in rural areas.

Similar to Kenya, beyond helping it reach its climate goals, boosting solar power in Nigeria will help the country bridge its large deficit gap.

Mr. Speaker, Kenya is a continental and global leader in renewable energy exploitation, as these sources already contribute significantly (85%) to the overall energy mix in the country, largely as a result of their utilization of geothermal and hydro power.

This East African nation is already on track to meet or exceed its Paris Agreement pledge. It stated goal is to achieve 100% of renewable energy power generation by 2030 complemented by a diverse technology mix.

Although hydropower contributes significantly to energy production currently, again with the risk of drought, the government is looking to enhance solar, wind, thermal and geothermal generation in its long-term plans.

Geothermal generation specifically is expected to be prioritised over the next decade.

Mr. Speaker, one of the ways in which Kenya is looking to achieve these goals is by entering into major public-private partnerships.

This was demonstrated in August 2019 when the Kenyan Investment Authority and Meru County Government entered into a memorandum of understanding with global renewable energy developers to build Africa’s first large scale hybrid wind, solar PV, and battery storage project – the Meru County Energy Park.

The park, for which construction began in January 2020, will provide up to 80MW of renewable energy and consist of up to 20 wind turbines and more than 40,000 solar panels. Power generated from the park is expected to supply 200,000 homes.

Mr. Speaker, harnessing renewable energy in Kenya will not only enable the country to meet its long-term climate goals but will ultimately help realise its ambition of becoming a middle-income country by the end of the decade.

Part of this requires realising universal electricity access for its people and Kenya has made significant strides in this regard.

Between 2010 and 2017, for example, Kenya was the fastest electrifying country in Sub-Saharan Africa according to the Tracking SDG7 Energy Progress Report by the World Bank.

This was largely driven by last-mile electrification projects targeted at informal settlements and rural communities.

Mr. Speaker, Renewable energy is also set to boost job creation in the country.

According to a ‘job census’ report by Power for All, a non-governmental organisation, growth in the renewable energy sector is already having a positive spinoff as the sector’s workforce is now comparable with traditional power grids and utilities.

The sector currently employs around 4,000 informal workers compared to 10,000 employed across the country’s traditional energy sectors.

Jobs in renewable energy are expected to grow by 100% in the next four years.

Mr. Speaker, South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), approved and made public on October 18, 2019, maps out the scale and pace of new electricity generation capacity to be commissioned until 2030 and has a strong focus on renewables.

The IRP provides for 14,400MW of new generation to come from wind, 6,000MW from solar PV, 3,000MW from gas, 2,500MW from hydro, 2,088MW from storage and 1,500MW from coal.

Solar and wind alone is expected to make up 25% of electricity generation by 2030. The IRP also makes provision for the inclusion of nuclear power.

The country’s Koeberg Power Station is expected to reach the end of its design life in 2024, and as part of the IRP, South Africa has made a decision to extend it.

Given the long lead times, preparation will start now for new nuclear builds that will come online after 2030.

Thereafter, modular nuclear power stations would be built to replace the decommissioning of coal-fired plants.

As demonstrated, there is a strong focus on renewables in the plan with 48% of new energy capacity to come from wind, 20% from solar, 10% from gas, and 8% from hydro.

Moreover, the private sector is expected to largely fill this gap, as there will be no more complex and expensive base load infrastructure projects that the country previously pursued.

Indeed, upon the launch of the plan, energy minister Gwede Mantashe confirmed this when he noted that government urgently needed another 4,000MW installed as quickly as possible.

As such, it is expected that more independent power producer bidding rounds will be launched.

Mr. Speaker, Ghana is endowed with substantial renewable energy potentials including solar, wind, biomass and hydro resource but its full potential is yet to be tapped except in the case of biomass which provides over 60% of the country’s energy resources.

Government is committed to the sustainable development and productive use of renewable energy to address energy access issues, contribute to the fight against climate change, and resolve sanitation problems to create green jobs for Ghanaians.

Mr.Speaker, private participation in renewables overtime has been impressive with Ghana expected to soon have one of Africa’s largest solar farms, which construction of a 100 MW of energy to support industrialisation and job creation started in March 2019.

According to Salma Okonkwo, CEO of the Ghanaian group UBI (Petroleum Company in Ghana and West Africa), the project was expected to be completed in December 2020.

She estimates that implementing the project “Blue Power Energy”, would cost $100 million, financed by roughly $30 million in loans.

Mr. Speaker, as part of governments one district one factory policy to create favourable conditions for foreign investment and job creation, Meinergy Ghana, a local company specialising in electrical installation financed and built a 20 megawatts solar power plant in the Gomoa Onyaadze District consisting of 40,480 polycrystalline silicon panels, 64,400 solar panels, 400 smart inverters and 15,000 DC cables at a cost of $30 million to supply electricity to about 50000 inhabitants in the Winneba enclave, located 60 km from Greater Accra.

This project was inaugurated by H.E. Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo on Sunday, September 16, 2018.

Mr. Speaker, H.E. Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana on February 2020, in commitment to diversifying renewables, cut the sod to begin construction of two solar power plant projects at a cost of US$ 25M, funded by Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), a German development agency.

The 6.5MW at Lawra and 13 MW Kaleo renewable projects located in the Upper West Region are expected to provide electricity for 15000 households in the region in addition to helping increase the renewable energy component of the country’s energy mix and contribute to the fight against the effects of climate change.

This calls for an urgent need to seek cooperation on energy projects as well as better resource and energy-based revenue management.

There is the need to make conscientious efforts to unlock our vast renewable energy resources, capitalise on them to meet our socio-economic demands.

Mr. Speaker, Government of Ghana has effective policies in place to drive the renewable energy agenda.

These include (i) the Strategic National Energy Plan of 2006-2020; (ii) the Energy Sector Strategy and Development Plan of 2010; (iii) the Renewable Energy Act of 2011; (iv) the Sustainable Energy for All Action Plan of 2012; and subsequently, (v) the Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP) presented to the Ministry of Energy in 2019.

As we transition to the final decade set out in the REMP, one essential component of the development of renewable energy still remains mere ink on paper, the establishment of the renewable energy authority.

Mr. Speaker, without prejudice to the immense contributions of our stakeholders in the energy sector, right from the Ministry responsible for Energy and the Energy Commission of Ghana, to representatives in the community of academia who continue to provide scientific research support towards the development of renewable energy, it is undeniable that the absence of the Renewable Energy Authority belies all of our achievements under renewable energy in Ghana.

Mr. Speaker, even though Parliament recently amended the Bui Power Authority Act (Act 740) to empower the Bui Power Authority to develop renewable energy and other clean energy alternatives in the country, the Renewable Energy Act (Act 832) is resolute in its purpose for renewable energy, which will also ensure that projects undertaken by government in renewable energy will be better organized

It is certainly not misplaced that the Renewable Energy Act (Act 832) of 2011, in its preceding description mentions “management, utilization, sustainability” of renewable energy as part of the purpose of the Act itself.

Moreover, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) identifies four categories of policy instruments used to promote renewable electricity generation anywhere in the world, being (i) fiscal incentives; (ii) public finance, (iii) regulations; as well as (iv) policies that ensure widespread access to power, from renewable sources.

Our emphasis however being on the policies that ensure proper regulation of the renewable energy industry.

Fortunately Mr. Speaker, the Renewable Energy Act (Act 832) under the transitional provisions recognizes the importance of a self-standing Renewable Energy Authority, stating in section 53 “Until such time that a Renewable Energy Authority is established, the Renewable Energy Directorate under the Ministry of Energy shall (a) oversee the implementation of renewable energy activities in the country; (b) execute renewable energy projects initiated by the State or in which the State has an interest; and (c) manage the assets in the renewable energy sector on behalf of the State.”

Mr. Speaker, when India’s National Renewable Energy Act was drafted in 2015, the adoption of renewable energy was reported to have significantly increased.

According to India’s Renewable Energy Act, and since India is in fact a federal republic, their central government is most responsible for the development of renewable energy with policy obligations of the central government prefixed by “shall” binding it by law to undertake certain roles relating to the Act.

Mr. Speaker, if we wish to make any comparisons to practices elsewhere in the world that position governments to come to the realization of their renewable energy objectives, India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, responsible solely for renewable energy is a stark difference to the institutional set-up presently in Ghana.

In any event, all these serve as a signal to us about the need for the establishment of our Renewable Energy Authority which will take up the full responsibility of meeting Ghana’s renewable energy objectives.

Mr. Speaker, there are however a host of other barriers identified in published research articles describing the negative effects on the development of renewable energy not only in Ghana, but also in countries like United Arab Emirates.

Studies in the UAE reveal that some of these barriers relate to economic and political complications in the implementation of feed-in-tariff and quota systems for generated renewable energy.

Similarly, poor financing of renewable energy investments, lack of affordability of renewable energy systems, cumbersome licensing processes, and unbalanced emphasis on on-grid renewable energy systems, persisted as challenges in countries like Kenya and South Africa, and Ghana is no exception.

Expectedly these challenges take a great deal of effort to overcome.

In conclusion Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that there is a focus on the development of renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Growth at this sector promises not only to plug the gap with regard to electricity generation, but to help the continent achieve its climate goals in this era of covid.

Setting up the renewable energy authority would facilitate implementation of the renewable energy master plan which among other benefits would expedite the installation of1363.63 MW of electricity (with grid connected systems totalling 1094.63 MW.

This has the capacity to create 220,000 job opportunities, and carbon savings of about 11 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030.

I believe that with the developments we have made in respect to robust policy framework that supports renewables, we can transform our energy sector impressively if we place priority on renewable energy development.

As a matter of importance Mr. Speaker, all our tertiary and secondary institutions should be installed with SOLAR panels.

All Government’s outfits should have SOLAR panels. Taking all these institutions off the national grid would afford space to industry and other critical areas of the economy.

It is time for us as a nation to get drastic and lead in the sub-region towards the transition of the continent using renewables.

I thank you, Rt. Hon. Speaker for the opportunity

Columnist: Frank Annoh-Dompreh