GHANA: Hydro-power crisis getting
Aug 3, 2007 (IRIN) - All Africa
Ghana is undergoing its worst power crisis since
1998. People go without electricity for at least 12
hours every other day, and, with insufficient rain
to keep its hydropower stations functioning, the situation
is likely to deteriorate, affecting individual livelihoods
and the economy as a whole.
The water level of Lake
Volta, the largest man-made lake in West Africa, which
normally supplies 60 percent of Ghana’s energy needs,
is at an all-time low, 234.96 ft below the critical
The lack of water in the lake has created
a 300 MW power shortfall.
Weather forecasters predict
drought in all three northern regions of Ghana where
the sources of the rivers that feed Lake Volta are
"The masses are suffering." John Atipoe,
an electrician and father of four, told IRIN.
frequent power cuts destroyed my refrigeration system
and I had no money to repair it," said 51-year old
Juliet Adjoa Serwah who used to make money selling
food and drinks. "Now I have to resort to basket weaving
to look after my three kids."
to Ghanaian economist Nii Moi Thompson, "It's almost
certain now that low productivity due to the crisis
will block the attainment of the 6.5 percent GDP [Gross
National Product] growth forecast for this year."
The impact of the power cuts have already been huge
for small and medium scale enterprises, which, according
to Ghana’s finance and economic minister, account
for about 90 per cent of all businesses in the country.
Big industries are also feeling the pinch: The mining
industry is currently spending 8.6 million dollars
a month to make up for the shortfall from the national
grid. In March, Ghana’s only aluminum smelter company,
VALCO, shut down due to the inadequate supply of power,
laying off 500 workers.
offices of the Ministry of Energy posters encourage
people to save energy. The ministry said it was importing
6 million energy-saving bulbs to be distributed to
the public free-of-charge.
"Conserving energy is the
best way to deal with this crisis," Energy Minister
Joseph Adda told IRIN. "We expect to save up to 200
MW of energy with this approach."
The government said
it was also encouraging independent power producers
to assist in meeting the energy shortfall. The Wood
Group, a private company from the UK has agreed to
provide 50 MW; mining companies in Ghana have come
together to create an 80 MW plant.
In the meantime
Adda said the government was setting up emergency
thermal plants that are expected to generate up to
But the costs of power from fossil fuels are
high. The government said it has been spending close
to US $42 million a month to fuel the generators.
"The consumer must be prepared to pay more if we are
to run these emergency plants at full capacity," Adda
The ministry is commissioning additional power
plants to be installed in the next 12 to 18 months.
"This forms part of the plan to have an installed
capacity of over 3,000 MW by 2010," Adda told IRIN.
But switching from renewable hydro power to power
fueled by gas and diesel is also likely to have negative
has started construction of another hydro-electric
plant which is expected to be completed in 2012, providing
400 MW. But leaders in the main political opposition,
the National Democratic Congress (NDC), have criticized
the move, questioning why the government thinks it
can successfully build a new hydro plant given the
on goings problems with the old one.
say the handling of the power crisis could determine
whether the ruling New Patriotic Party wins or loses
next year’s general elections. em/cb/dh
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