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Letter from the President: Now the dam is full

Mon, 8 Oct 2007 Source: Daily Dispatch

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, you have suffered enough over the past one year. It’s been dark and it’s been hot… very hot. Things have not been easy for you since Mother Nature stopped the rains from falling into the Akosombo Dam. I can’t say I shared in your suffering because I never had a blackout in my office or house. Most of my ministers also enjoyed uninterrupted electricity supply. But we all know you’ve suffered in the past 12 months, a period in which the already erratic electricity supply system became even worse with those responsible for power generating, disgracefully epitomising our collective incompetence as a nation.

Apart from their failure to plan for future eventualities those guys at the VRA also showed us over the past 12 months that they are not fit to be called engineers at all. As the nation struggled to cope with the power crisis they foisted on us, they could only look on helplessly (like the rest of us) – with no radical ideas on how best to deal with the problem with local thinking and innovation. They demonstrated a great deal of competence though in drawing up various timetable permutations for the load shedding programme.

Their incompetence made you suffer in the dark and in the heat. To add insult to injury, we the politicians kept making vain promises about how we were working to resolve the crisis within the shortest possible time. I remember that earlier in the year, I promised that the problem would be dealt with in two weeks. Six months later, the problem was still persisting. You also heard tales about how government planned to start tapping fuel from the West Africa Gas Pipeline to power the nation’s only thermal plant. We tried to get the gas. Unfortunately the pipelines to deliver the gas had not even been laid yet. And so the suffering continued.

Through it all, lives were disrupted. Instead of going home to their families men (and in some cases, women) stayed out late quaffing beer with people they don’t even like – just to escape the blackout at home. Men took on more concubines in different ‘area codes’ so that if there is a blackout in zone ‘A’ (where they stayed) they could go the concubine in Zone ‘B’ (where there was electricity). Being who we are, we will never be able to know the true social cost of the energy crisis. But it was enormous. For example, I hope you heard the stories of people whose houses got burnt because they either left a candle unattended or tried to use a malfunctioning generator just to escape the blackout.

One thing we know for sure, however, is the impact the crisis had on the economy. As you are well aware, many businesses had no choice than to resort to using generators at great cost. This invariably affected their expansion plans and, in some cases, led to factory closures and lay-offs. Through it all, no one was able to come up with a workable solution, even for the short term. But thank God for small mercies. The hymn says He “moves in mysterious ways” and the way He helped us to bring the energy crisis to an end was as timely as it was devastating. Contrary to the forecasts of Rev. Nyarkotey Kwaw and his weathermen, the rains fell and fell very heavily – and in the northern parts of the country where it needed to fall the most to fill up the Akosombo Dam. And so, now the dam is filling with water every day and chances are that the water level might even go beyond the maximum limit, which would require that we open it up and let some of the aqua flow away.

So countrymen and women, isn’t it strange that it took a natural disaster for us to resolve a crisis which almost brought the whole nation to its knees? I’ve been seriously reflecting on this and I am as ashamed as I am amazed. Seriously, if the rains hadn’t fallen as heavily, there was no way we would have been able to resolve the energy crisis. Don’t believe anything Ada tells you. I am the president and I am telling you the honest truth. The so-called energy experts should bow their heads in shame for letting the nation down.

So where are we heading now that the dam is full? I’m told we should all expect tariff increases. I am not so sure about that. But the fact remains that citizens of Sikaman pay too little for electricity and so I will urge you all to be prepared to dig deeper into your pockets. They claim that when you pay more, electricity supply will improve. Don’t believe them. You’ve been paying all this while and the service keeps getting worse. I am not so optimistic that electricity supply will improve anytime soon simply because consumers are paying more. I will be more than delighted to be proved wrong, though.

What I think is needed is for our engineers and so-called energy experts to formulate a long-term plan that will save us the embarrassment and the frustration of having to go through yet another energy crisis if (and/or when) the rains fail. With climate change, trust me, we are not going to have the rain falling as it used to. I believe that one of the best ways to ensure energy sufficiency in this country is to encourage people (and even help them) to adopt and acquire solar technology. There is a lot of sunshine in Sikaman and we let it all go waste. I know solar technology is expensive to set up. But I believe that the long-term payoffs are great. There are solar panels on my (son’s) hotel and you don’t know how much they helped the business at the peak of the crisis.

As a country we can even decide to embark on a grand project to build a huge solar farm somewhere near Bolgatanga to provide power for the northern sector. How about that for a suggestion for my successor?

Apart from solar, we also need to seriously consider the nuclear option. But we should not rush into building a nuclear power plant just yet. If we cannot manage an airline with one aircraft, we seriously need to ask ourselves whether we are capable of safely managing a nuclear power plant. If we can put our act together, we surely can make it.

In the meantime, let’s all be thankful that the energy crisis is over. But we need to promise ourselves that we will never again allow a similar crisis to take us unawares, unprepared and unable to deal with it head on.

Excellently yours,
J. A. Fukuor
(fukuor@gmail.com)

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, you have suffered enough over the past one year. It’s been dark and it’s been hot… very hot. Things have not been easy for you since Mother Nature stopped the rains from falling into the Akosombo Dam. I can’t say I shared in your suffering because I never had a blackout in my office or house. Most of my ministers also enjoyed uninterrupted electricity supply. But we all know you’ve suffered in the past 12 months, a period in which the already erratic electricity supply system became even worse with those responsible for power generating, disgracefully epitomising our collective incompetence as a nation.

Apart from their failure to plan for future eventualities those guys at the VRA also showed us over the past 12 months that they are not fit to be called engineers at all. As the nation struggled to cope with the power crisis they foisted on us, they could only look on helplessly (like the rest of us) – with no radical ideas on how best to deal with the problem with local thinking and innovation. They demonstrated a great deal of competence though in drawing up various timetable permutations for the load shedding programme.

Their incompetence made you suffer in the dark and in the heat. To add insult to injury, we the politicians kept making vain promises about how we were working to resolve the crisis within the shortest possible time. I remember that earlier in the year, I promised that the problem would be dealt with in two weeks. Six months later, the problem was still persisting. You also heard tales about how government planned to start tapping fuel from the West Africa Gas Pipeline to power the nation’s only thermal plant. We tried to get the gas. Unfortunately the pipelines to deliver the gas had not even been laid yet. And so the suffering continued.

Through it all, lives were disrupted. Instead of going home to their families men (and in some cases, women) stayed out late quaffing beer with people they don’t even like – just to escape the blackout at home. Men took on more concubines in different ‘area codes’ so that if there is a blackout in zone ‘A’ (where they stayed) they could go the concubine in Zone ‘B’ (where there was electricity). Being who we are, we will never be able to know the true social cost of the energy crisis. But it was enormous. For example, I hope you heard the stories of people whose houses got burnt because they either left a candle unattended or tried to use a malfunctioning generator just to escape the blackout.

One thing we know for sure, however, is the impact the crisis had on the economy. As you are well aware, many businesses had no choice than to resort to using generators at great cost. This invariably affected their expansion plans and, in some cases, led to factory closures and lay-offs. Through it all, no one was able to come up with a workable solution, even for the short term. But thank God for small mercies. The hymn says He “moves in mysterious ways” and the way He helped us to bring the energy crisis to an end was as timely as it was devastating. Contrary to the forecasts of Rev. Nyarkotey Kwaw and his weathermen, the rains fell and fell very heavily – and in the northern parts of the country where it needed to fall the most to fill up the Akosombo Dam. And so, now the dam is filling with water every day and chances are that the water level might even go beyond the maximum limit, which would require that we open it up and let some of the aqua flow away.

So countrymen and women, isn’t it strange that it took a natural disaster for us to resolve a crisis which almost brought the whole nation to its knees? I’ve been seriously reflecting on this and I am as ashamed as I am amazed. Seriously, if the rains hadn’t fallen as heavily, there was no way we would have been able to resolve the energy crisis. Don’t believe anything Ada tells you. I am the president and I am telling you the honest truth. The so-called energy experts should bow their heads in shame for letting the nation down.

So where are we heading now that the dam is full? I’m told we should all expect tariff increases. I am not so sure about that. But the fact remains that citizens of Sikaman pay too little for electricity and so I will urge you all to be prepared to dig deeper into your pockets. They claim that when you pay more, electricity supply will improve. Don’t believe them. You’ve been paying all this while and the service keeps getting worse. I am not so optimistic that electricity supply will improve anytime soon simply because consumers are paying more. I will be more than delighted to be proved wrong, though.

What I think is needed is for our engineers and so-called energy experts to formulate a long-term plan that will save us the embarrassment and the frustration of having to go through yet another energy crisis if (and/or when) the rains fail. With climate change, trust me, we are not going to have the rain falling as it used to. I believe that one of the best ways to ensure energy sufficiency in this country is to encourage people (and even help them) to adopt and acquire solar technology. There is a lot of sunshine in Sikaman and we let it all go waste. I know solar technology is expensive to set up. But I believe that the long-term payoffs are great. There are solar panels on my (son’s) hotel and you don’t know how much they helped the business at the peak of the crisis.

As a country we can even decide to embark on a grand project to build a huge solar farm somewhere near Bolgatanga to provide power for the northern sector. How about that for a suggestion for my successor?

Apart from solar, we also need to seriously consider the nuclear option. But we should not rush into building a nuclear power plant just yet. If we cannot manage an airline with one aircraft, we seriously need to ask ourselves whether we are capable of safely managing a nuclear power plant. If we can put our act together, we surely can make it.

In the meantime, let’s all be thankful that the energy crisis is over. But we need to promise ourselves that we will never again allow a similar crisis to take us unawares, unprepared and unable to deal with it head on.

Excellently yours,
J. A. Fukuor
(fukuor@gmail.com)

Columnist: Daily Dispatch