Accra seeks power supply solutions: Ghana's chronic shortage of power will adversely affect its growth targets this year and for the near future. However, a spate of new undertakings, some with Chinese assistance, should ease the situation over the next three to four years. Neil Ford reports.

Author:Ford, Neil
Position::GHANA
 
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Ghana has enjoyed a variable reputation as an electricity producer over the past 20 years. The development of the Akosombo Dam during the 1960s provided the country with more electricity than it needed and turned Ghana into a major power exporter, to neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire among others.

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The direction of flow has reversed over the past decade, as the lack of new generating capacity has forced Accra to import electricity from Cote d'Ivoire. Power shortages have become severe over the past year but new investment should again reverse Ghana's power sector fortunes in the near future.

Low rainfall in 2006 resulted in lower water levels at the Akosombo Dam and other hydroelectric dams, which in turn triggered electricity rationing from the middle of last year. As during a similar drought in 1998-99, the rationing has continued for over a year and there are real fears that it will be reflected in lower economic growth.

A Ghanaian economist, Nii Moi Thompson, says: "It's almost certain now that low productivity due to the crisis will block the attainment of the 6.5% growth forecast for this year." Of those homes and businesses that are supplied with on-grid electricity, supplies have been turned off for at least 12 hours a day. The waters of the 1,020MW Akosombo dam are a massive 70 metres lower than normal, cutting the plant's generating capacity by 300MW. A study by Ghana's Data Bank concluded that the country could lose $1.4bn as a direct consequence of the drought.

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The Valco aluminium smelter, one of the biggest employers in the country, has had to suspend production and mining companies have been forced to resort to their own expensive small scale generators.

Small diesel and oil fired facilities provide the main back up nationwide but these are expensive to run at the best of times and doubly so with the current high oil price.

The government says that it is spending $42m a month on feedstock. Other temporary measures have been adopted but only bringing additional generating capacity on stream will provide a long term solution. The timing of the drought has been very unfortunate, given that new capacity is already in the pipeline but at least the rationing will not last for ever. The government has set a target of boosting national generating capacity to 3,000MW by 2010, a figure which would more than double existing capacity. Although the 2010 target may not be met, 3,000MW could be achieved shortly afterwards....

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