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Ghana power crisis now critical: Ghana's acute shortage of power for both domestic and industrial users is reaching crisis point. Stephen Gyasi Jnr. reports from Accra on efforts to head off the looming blackout.

A new company is to be established by the government of Ghana to help solve the nation's energy challenges and also encourage strategic investments in the sector.

The Minister of Energy, Joseph Kofi Adda, said the new company which will be known as the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCO) will help in the transmission of hydro-electric power, a function that was previously performed by the Volta River Authority (VRA), the company which has the sole responsibility to produce power in the country.

Although political opponents have expressed pessimism about the feasibility of the newly announced company, government is of the view that the move has been necessitated by the country's desire to encourage the participation of strategic investors in the energy sector.

The Akosombo Dam was built by Ghana's first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, but since then, no attempts have been made to either expand the power production capacity of the dam or introduce another source of power supply.

Ghana began a cyclical power rationing exercise in September last year and although they have been reviewed several times, the problems associated with saving the Akosombo Dam, Ghana's chief source of power for domestic and industrial purposes from totally drying up--appears far from over. The water level in the dam has hit an all-time low from the minimum operating level of 240ft to 236.74ft. This, according to experts has put the nation's energy situation in jeopardy.

Four out of the six turbines which help in the generation of hydro-electric power at the dam site have been shut down due to the diminishing level of the water in the dam, forcing heavy energy-consuming industries like the Volta Aluminium Company Ltd (Valco), which produces aluminium ingots for other aluminium-based industries, to close down. More than two-thirds of the staff of Valco have been made redundant.

Successive governments in Ghana have failed to explore other sources of energy supply, a situation that has resulted in the looming crisis which is almost plunging the nation into total darkness. The government has come under intense pressure from all sectors of the economy to ease the burden brought on industry and the corporate world by the on-going four-day cycle load shedding exercise.


Is the nuclear option feasible?

But the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Kwamena Bartels, in a reaction to such calls, stated categorically that cabinet had not taken any decision in respect of nuclear or any other alternative source of energy for the country.

He added that a definitive decision would be taken by the government after a Presidential Commission headed by the chairman of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Prof Daniel Adzei-Bokoe, presents its report to the president.

Although Prof Bekoe conceded that nuclear technology was a sophisticated one which required huge capital outlay, he encouraged its use on the premise that its safety and efficiency was always guaranteed, adding that Ghana already had some of the infrastructure in place while the rest could be acquired within a two-year period.

As part of the government's short term remedial measures, a set of diesel-powered generators to produce 136MW of power are being imported to augment the power supply.

To complement the efforts of the government at finding answers to the nation's energy crunch, four mining firms operating in the country--Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, Anglogold Ashanti, Goldfields Ghana Limited and Gold Star Resources--have also imported an 80MW power plant through a joint initiative. The $45m plant which arrived in the country on a specially chartered ship from the US, consists of three turbines, fuel and water treatment facilities and a substation. It is expected to be operational in July.

Ghana and some of its neighbours, Togo, Benin and Cote d'Ivoire, have also initiated the West African Gas Pipeline Project to transmit relatively cheaper gas from Nigeria to Ghana through Benin and Togo. Although some technical hitches delayed its inauguration, government is optimistic that the increased gas flow will help relieve the energy crisis.
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Title Annotation:Energy
Comment:Ghana power crisis now critical: Ghana's acute shortage of power for both domestic and industrial users is reaching crisis point.
Author:Gyasi, Stephen
Publication:African Business
Geographic Code:6GHAN
Date:May 1, 2007
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