ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with a public relations officer of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) about the power crisis…
About the power situation in the country, how will you describe it to the outside world?
Let me take it from the social and economic point and as a corporate entity. From the social point of view, most people from other countries would be surprised because with the inception of electricity in this country, when Kwame Nkrumah built the Akosombo Dam, we were supplying Togo, Benin, some parts of Ivory Coast and even Burkina Faso. But as we speak, our demand has out-grown or striped our supply or generation. That caused this problem we find ourselves in, and I can’t blame it on any particular person. It’s a crisis that the country is battling.
As a nation, we have been silent for a long time over our demand that was growing at the rate of 12.5% per annum to escalate so much that we couldn’t measure up to the supply. It means when the demand is going up, there is the need for you to also improve or add up the generation. For a country that grows demand at the rate of 12.5, it means we need 200 mega watt every year to meet the supply, but that is what the nation didn’t do and that is where we find ourselves. So, we need to double up our investments in the generation to be able to meet up the demand.
Talking about investment, do you think private sector coming in would help ease the situation?
That is the way forward. I would not mince words. Currently, as I speak to you, we have other private people already on line. We have the Asogli Power Plant that is giving us 200 MW and they intend to expand and give us more energy. We have the Senate which is owned by Social Security National Investment Trust (SSNIT). It’s another privately owned outfit that gives us some energy and we have the Tico Taqua at Abuasi, and other private companies that are also coming on board. So, for now, apart from the Akosombo Dam and the Pon Dam which is also hydro, we have other Independent Power Producers (IPP) also coming on board to help meet our demand.
But the government has put in short and long term measures. For the short term, the government is securing a batch that will be coming in two folds.
When the plants are put together, we would have 450 MW. The deficit that we have currently is around 600 MW, that is the worst scenario. For the demand in the country currently, we need to be able to say ok, it’s around 2,000 MW, we are shedding a load of 600 MW. So, it means what is left to be able to shed or give to our customers is around 1,200 MW and that is the problem we are currently facing. So, we need to bring in other investors to be able to meet the demand.
Do you think some of the steps taken by President Mahama will go a long way in solving the issue?
Yes, I think so. When you look at the power sector being carved out from the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, definitely, when you reduce the sphere or the arrear of operation of a particular sector or even company, then you have an oversight of a small place and you are able to perform better than when you have a large place to manage.
So, the Ministry of Power is looking at electricity generation alone. It doesn’t have any other responsibility like the oil and gas, fuel. All it’s concentrating on is electricity – and that would give it that skill to be able to observe it and make sure we don’t veer off. Efficiency will be more effective than when you are controlling a particular sector and adding other responsibility from other sectors.
So far, do you think the new ministry has been able to measure up with demand?
So far, the measures being put in place to solve the problem, although, we are not seeing that people are having more power supply than usual, I think it is gradually showing that the volume of energy we are shedding now is a bit down.
It’s reducing a bit, we used to shed around 600 MW when the heat was on, before that ministry was carved out from the ministry of energy. But now as I speak with you, this morning we shedding 420 MW which means we have been able to improve the situation with about 180 MW, as we added, that is a good sign. And we have been assured too by the minister that by the end of the year, we should be out of this problem.
What steps do you think the public and stakeholders can take during this crisis to support the government in finding solution to the power crisis?
Yes, unfortunately for them, even if you tell them to shed energy, the energy is not even there for them to shed. But we can say, they have waited for a long time, we are almost through with the problem. We will come out of it if we are a bit patient. They should be able to plan their work and once you have the time table in place, that will help you work within the period your light is on. Another thing I will add is, it is expensive though, but the situation demands that when you are operating a company or a business, you need to have a standing power plant to be able to feed into your system when the national grid goes off. And they should also adopt alternative sources of power, like the solar, the inverters to be able to source energy. When we come back to the national grid and we are fully operational, those things would be a plus, though it could occasionally go off.
So, what I would advice is that, one, they should be able to plan their work when they want to use national grid. When they come on, they should make sure people work at that time and also provide alternative source of power. Because in this part of the world, we have sunshine throughout the whole year. Even during the rainy season, the sun still shines. So if you have solar you can depend on it and also the inverters. For the inverters you need your batteries and panels, depending on the capacity you need. You will need more batteries to be able to power your panels.
Would you say the issues around the supply of gas from Nigeria also contributed to the crisis?
Exactly, very well. The supply from Nigeria has not been frequent. Or let me use the word, erratic. It is not as regular as it used to be and the quantum they used to supply. Nigeria is supposed to supply us around 120 million standard cubic-feet and sometimes it gets down to around 50 and 54, but I don’t blame Nigeria so much. I don’t know what went into the agreement because we are not into generation, but when somebody agrees to give you 120 cubic-feet and goes down to 54, then maybe there is a certain agreement that is not going well. I cannot say it’s from Ghana or Nigeria, what I can say is that, by the time Nigeria was having problem with their oil and gas, it wasn’t even coming at all, but it was resolved. Because what we have at Obuasi Plant is not enough to power all our plants. We need to get enough gas from Nigeria to be able to power all our plants that use gas.
So, we need more gas for the Asogli and Obuasi Plant to be able to go full scale. Sometimes when you give reason to shed the load, they tell you the gas flow is not enough, so we also need enough gas to power our plants.
How would you describe load shedding to a layman?
Technically, load shedding means the number of people that need electricity outstrips the quantity of energy you have at a particular time. If you need to give people about two thousand mega watt and you have about a thousand four mega watt, you have a deficit of about six hundred. That means all cannot get power supply at the same time, because definitely your demand is out weighing your supply. So you need to give some people at a point while another set of people will have to wait, while you take it from the former set and give it to another set of people. So, it’s just a demand and supply situation, where the demand at a point is out stripping the energy supply at the moment. That means you can’t supply light to everybody at the same time. That’s the situation we have found ourselves.
Do you think the Dumsor Dumsor phase will ever come to an end?
Oh! definitely. I’ve been optimistic from day one. I am in the sector, this is not the first time we are going through this particular situation, just that this time it has taken too long. But the situation has been long because most of the time it is better to nip the situation at a bad time than to have a fire fighting issue, or trying to do it in a way that it will still come up. So what we are trying to do is to make sure our supply or generation out stripes our demand, and it means, anytime you have to do maintenance, you have to shut down and people get to suffer for it because there is no reserve.
So, what the country needs is to put enough plants in place to generate power, like the Akosombo Dam where the water level is down. As I speak, we are running only four machines at Akosombo instead of six. The Akosombo Dam generates like a 1,020 megawatt, but as I speak, we are only getting 600mw with 400 deficits which is fine. We know that during this time, Akosombo cannot power all the plants because the water level has gone down. If we had focused on that during times like this, Akosombo cannot run six plants and we had other plants to generate…but unfortunately this is the situation we find ourselves. So, it will definitely be solved one day. We have been assured by those who matter that from June, we will see tremendous changes and by the end of the year, we should be out of this problem, if not totally we should see a tremendous improvement. Even if power goes off, the number of hours will be very minimal.
What do you have to say about the protest against the power issue by opposition parties and the general public?
Obviously, it’s a democratic and constitutional right, so people can go on demonstration once the police grant them the right to demonstrate. Nobody begrudges them to do that. Even people from other political parties also participated. Just that once your government is in power, you hardly criticize some of the things they do. So, we as a company don’t meddle in politics. But from a customer point of view, if a customer is not satisfied, he has every right to repel or show his displeasure by writing or talking on air.
When I go on air and the phone lines are opened, the number of insults and calls that come in, are intimidating but it’s their right. You have taken their money and you have a contract with them to deliver service and you are failing. The only thing I will say to our customers is they have been patient for a long time and they know we have done it before and we can do it again, just that we are in crisis and the honour lies on you to take steps to be able to solve the problem.
The government, stakeholders, generator distributors are not sitting down unconcerned. Plans are being put in place, batches are being imported into the country to immediately give an emergency power supply from Turkey to augment whatever we have. And I believe within the time frame we have given, we should be able to see light at the end of the tunnel.
– ADEBUKOLA ADENEYE-EDAH