Energy plays a very important role in national development and the eradication of poverty in a society. As people, we seek a higher standard of living, which can only be possible with access to commercially sustainable energy services and energy security. Energy is the pivot or the fulcrum around which the economic development of every country revolves. This is because energy is what drives the turbines in the industry for the manufacturing of goods and services, fuels bumper harvest in the agriculture sector through the usage of machines such as tractors, combined harvesters and facilitate the movement of agricultural produce to the market centres to reduce post-harvest losses, light and cool homes and offices and most importantly aid the transportation of people to and fro their economic activities. As a result, any short fall in generation, distribution and supply have adverse effect on economic growth and development in a country.
Power Generation in Ghana
Hydroelectricity is the primary source of Ghana’s power and the Volta River Authority (VRA) is the organisation responsible for energy generation in the country. The Electricity Company of Ghana distributes electricity mainly in the southern sector of the country whiles the VRA is responsible for the northern sector.
Hydroelectricity is environmentally friendly because it does not involve the emission of carbon dioxide or any toxic gaseous element into the atmosphere. A relatively small percentage of power is generated from thermal sources. Population growth, rural electrification and expansion in industries have led to an increase in the demand for energy. In an attempt to satisfy the surged demand for energy due to population growth, rural electrification and industrial expansion, the government of Ghana in collaboration with Independent Power Producers IPPs have engaged in thermal energy production which now supply about 650 MW of power to the VRA.
According to the energy consumption statistics of Ghana, the northern regions consume less than 1% of the total electricity power (energy) consumption in Ghana with Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi being the highest electricity consuming regions in the country which of course the factors and reasons for this are not far-fetched.1 The population density in these regions are high.2 The uneven distribution of factories and industries in the country and about 98% of the factories and industries in the country are located within these regions in the country and these factories consumed about 60 to 70 % of the energy generated in the country.
As a result of the energy crisis the country is currently engulfed with, workers of both small and large enterprises are being laid off. In an equal or an even more dire case, self-employed artisans who per their small incomes cannot afford to purchase a generator set are gradually being rendered redundant following the energy crisis facing the country. Enterprises now rely on standby plants that consume a lot of fuel in order the maintain production. The increased cost and the resultant reduction in profit margins force these firms to resort to job cuts as an avenue for reducing their overhead costs.
Shift in Focus
Ghana as a country has not paid major attention to renewable energy over the decades but has heavily depended on energy generated from conventional hydro and thermal sources. The time for the shift in focus to renewable is now and the government and stakeholders must pay particular attention to these renewable sources of energy to ensure sustainable and uninterrupted energy supply needed to boost economic growth and development in the country. The energy crises witnessed in recent times have had adverse effects on economic growth and development. The projections of economic growth for the year 2015 by the ministry of finance and economic planning will have to be revised because of the energy crises which has brought hardships and worse conditions in the first and second quarter of the year.
Cost and Financing of Renewable Energy
The technology and initial cost of investment in renewable energy is high and that seems to put private individuals away from investing in renewable energy. Nevertheless, the generation capacity, the lifespan of these renewable energy plants (e.g. 25 years for solar) and the low cost of running them since only the cost of maintenance is required, ensure that there is value for money for these projects. This sources of energy also give value for money and uninterrupted and stable power. This therefore calls for government investment to tap into the abundance of renewable energy that exist in the country. The Navrongo Solar project by the government through the VRA is commendable and a visit to the site gives one a cause to appreciate the power of solar energy and the entire installation.
Facts on the 2.5 (megawatt) of solar power of the VRA Navrongo solar project.
- The installed capacity is 2.5 megawatt
- The actual capacity of generation is dependent on the weather and the climatic conditions at particular point in time
- The plant has 6 installed invertors
- The power generated from the plant is fed directly into the national grid
- The power generated from the PV Panels is in a Direct Current ( DC) form
- Before it is fed into the national grid, it is converted into Alternating Current ( AC) form
Energy audit of domestic facilities does not is not much as compare to that of commercial and industrial facility. Much power is needed to power the smelters and industrial machineries in industry. If the country could invest in the renewable energy to aid in energy generation in the country, the domestic usage of energy could be met by these renewable energy sources while the hydro and thermal energy generated could feed the industrial and commercial segments of the economy. It is therefore a wake up call to government and other stakeholders to bring out pragmatic measures and affirmative policies to harness the renewable energy potentials of the country.
References: The Time For Renewable Energy is Now
- Energy Commission of Ghana: available athttp://www.energycom.gov.gh/files/ENERGY%20STATISTICS_2014_FINAL.pdf
- PWC: Energy, Utilities and Mining in Ghana: available at http://www.pwc.com/gh/en/industries/energy-utilities-mining.jhtmlof
- Ministry of Energy- Energy Sector Strategy and Development Plan: available athttp://www.energycom.gov.gh/files/ENERGY%20STATISTICS_2014_FINAL.pdf
- Resource Center for Energy Economics and Regulation Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research University of Ghana- Guide to Electric Power in Ghana: available athttp://www.beg.utexas.edu/energyecon/IDA/USAID/RC/Guide_to_Electric%20Power_in_Ghana.pdf