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Reflections VRA boss tells Ghana's energy story

Very soon we're going to have far more than sufficient power generation in our country.

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Akosombo dam play

Akosombo dam

Chief Executive Officer of the Volta River Authority, Engineer Isaac Kirk-Kofi has been reflecting on how the past two years have been for Ghana's energy sector.  He  was speaking to French online publisher, Marcopolis. Here are excerpts of the interview in which he touched on Ghana's successes in the past two years, failures, threats and opportunities for the future. Here are excerpts of the interview:

What is your evaluation of the energy sector in Ghana? What are the recent developments, specifically with regards to the natural gas supply for the Volta River Authority (VRA) plants?

 

A lot has happened in Ghana since we last spoke two years ago. On the positive side, since then we've had our own gas from our own gas field from the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah, and Ghana Gas supplies gas to our power plants in Takoradi. It’s been quite reliable powering our four gas turbines in Takoradi.

There have been a few challenges, but on the average it's been good. And that reduces our cost of generation, and makes our unit's thermal operations more reliable. On the negative side, the current power crisis is a challenge we're facing. The power crisis results from a number of causes. One is the growth in the demand of electricity. What is the average rate of electricity growth in Africa? It's 3%.

We are recording double digits: 11-12%. And that is very high for any developing or lower-middle income country to manage. On top of that, our main source of generation is hydroelectricity. We have a big Akosombo plant with hydro facility of over 1,000 megawatts, and we haven't had good inflow for the past three years. The inflow into the lake has been very low. So today, we're just doing about 50% of our hydro generation.

So you're having an increase in demand and a reduction in hydro generation. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to add on that much thermal generation over the past two years. So this contributes to the challenge we find ourselves in today.

So the way forward in tackling any future challenges is international partnerships. What are some of the projects in the pipeline?

Some of the projects we have taken on ourselves. That's our strategy. The IPPs are going to come, but they might come on their own terms, so we are putting on projects according to our own plans. Right now, there’s a 300 megawatt thermal plant being constructed. Hopefully, by September that plant should be running 220 megawatts.

We’ve already begun plans to convert that plant into a combined-cycle, improving it from 220 to 330 megawatts. We have a simple-cycle plant in Tema, and an adjacent plant which belongs to an IPP, CENIT. We've already started a collaboration to convert that plant into a combined-cycle, adding on another 100 megawatts. We're currently building a 39 megawatts plant in Tema, which will also be finished within the next two or three months. There is a T4 contract, which is for one 80 megawatts plant.

We just awarded a contract that we hope will start construction by early next year. Some of these things take about two years. Besides these, we've also signed a JV with Globalec, a UK company already present next door in Ivory Coast, to build a 400 megawatts plant in Takoradi. We are providing the land as our equity, and providing a shared service in Takoradi for them. We've also signed a JV with EDF, one of the biggest players in the electricity market in Europe. We've signed a joint-venture arrangement with them to help us, in exchange for land in Takoradi.

What is your short-term strategy or vision for Volta River Authority? When we meet again in two years, where would you like to see your company?

In two years, we still want to be the biggest player in this country. Our vision is to be setting the standard of excellence in the sector, but we want to go beyond that. We always say that we want to power the economy. We can see Volta River Authority playing a dominant role as the major energy utility in this country, producing sufficient generation for the people of Ghana, as well as playing a bigger role in the sub-region (Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso) through the export of surplus power. We want to be the dependable utility that can supply their energy needs.

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