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VRA: Poised to be future leader in power generation

BY: Rosemary Ardayfio
Emmanuel Antwi-Darkwa, Chief Executive of Volta River Authority
Emmanuel Antwi-Darkwa, Chief Executive of Volta River Authority

The NEW VRA, POWERING THE FUTURE is the theme for the celebration of the 57th anniversary of the Volta River Authority (VRA) which falls today, April 26, 2018.

With this strong theme, the VRA has served notice that it is poised to maintain its position as the flagship power utility provider in the country and beyond.

The VRA was established on April 26, 1961 under the Volta River Development Act, Act 46 of the Republic of Ghana with the mandate to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. However, following the promulgation of a major amendment to the VRA Act in the context of the Ghana Government Power Sector Reforms in 2005, VRA’s mandate has been largely restricted to the generation of electricity. The amendment has the key function of creating the enabling environment to attract Independent Power Producers (IPPs) onto the Ghana energy market.

Following the amendment, the transmission function has been hived off into an entity, designated Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo), while VRA’s distribution agency, the Northern Electricity Department (NED), has been transformed into the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCo), a wholly owned subsidiary of the VRA.

Operations

Strategically, the VRA has diversified its power generation development to take advantage of available and sustainable sources of energy, mainly hydro, natural gas, liquefied petroleum products and renewables.


Accordingly, the authority operates a total installed generation capacity of 2436.5MW from the two hydroelectric plants, the Akosombo and Kpong generating stations, with installed capacities of 1,020MW and 160MW respectively, complemented by a number of thermal facilities at Aboadze, Tema and Kpone totalling 1,254MW, and a 2.5MW solar PV plant at Navrongo.

The VRA sells power to its bulk customers, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and NEDCo. Power sold to the ECG and NEDCo. cater mainly for domestic, industrial and commercial concerns in the southern and northern sectors of the country. Bulk sales are also made to a number of mining companies and industries across the country.

The VRA is collaborating with CENIT Power, an Independent Power Producer (IPP), in a joint venture (JV) to convert the Tema Thermal 1 Power Plant (TTIPP) and Tema CENIT Thermal Power Plants (TCTPP) into a combined cycle to improve efficiency. VRA has also completed expansion works to add 38MW (TT2PPx) to the existing 50MW Tema Thermal 2 Power Plant (TT2PP).

It is also exploring the possibility of the powering of the 132MW (T3) plant at Aboadze with the Ministry of Energy, and the development of an 186MW T4 plant also at Aboadze. The proposed 48MW Pwalugu multipurpose hydro dam project is also progressing steadily.

The authority is committed to the development of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, ensuring a system of diversity and security in electricity supply.

In line with this, the VRA has secured funding to develop a 12MW Solar PV Plant at Kaleo and Lawra in the Upper West Region of Ghana and is also working on the development of a 150MW wind power project at two (2) potential sites in the southern part of the country.

Other roles

The authority demonstrates its social responsiveness  through the implementation of the VRA Resettlement Trust Fund set up to support development initiatives in the 52 resettlement townships upstream of Akosombo. The VRA, also through its Community Development Programme (CDP) framework, supports host and impacted communities in the lower Volta Basin and other operational areas (Aboadze, Kpone and Tema) with the aim of contributing to the well-being of the indigenes through an educational support scheme, skills development and enterprise sustainability.

The VRA reaches its customers in neighbouring countries through the interconnectivity under the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) protocol, which allows it access to the large potential power market in the sub-region. Being a foundation customer in the development of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) also guarantees VRA competitiveness in power delivery in the sub-region.

The authority is also the founding/principal member of the Association of Power Utilities of Africa (APUA), contributing significantly to policies on power development and accessibility on the African continent.

Mr Boakye Agyarko, the Minister of Energy

Challenges

The VRA has evolved from the era of monopoly to an arena of competition following the power sector reforms of 2005. Key issues which require prompt attention and immediate remedy are the authority’s financial sustainability, low utilisation of generating assets and decline in both the local and export market share in the power market.

Other challenges are the commercialisation and profitability of the non-power assets of the company and the development of VRA’s greatest assets, its human capital.

With the government implementing very rigorous interventions and policies aimed at improving the operational and financial performance of entities in the energy sector, there is no doubt that it is time for the VRA to do more to remain relevant and maintain its market share in the power market. 

Strategic plan

As part of the activities to celebrate the anniversary, dubbed “2018, VRA Day”, the authority will launch its five-year strategic plan for transforming the organisation into the ‘new VRA’ which is resilient, viable and financially strong to remain the leader in power delivery in the West African sub-region.

The plan is the road map for the authority’s journey of becoming a sustainable and growing multi-business holding company, with multiple business interests, comprising subsidiaries and affiliates. 

It is hinged on four strategic themes carefully crafted for the purpose of achieving the vision and mission of the company.

These are financial sustainability, commercialisation, growing diversified portfolio and excellence in performance management. With these strategic pillars, the VRA aims to provide effective financial management across all areas of its operations to strengthen the balance sheet, sustain financial liquidity and ensure short and long-term sustainability.

It also intends to provide value-adding services such as estate management, health and educational services on commercial basis, ensuring quality of service provision, profitability and financial self-sustainability.

Furthermore, it will create an expanded generation capacity and portfolio of businesses to grow sales and profitability, improve value–driven culture and working environment, develop skilled and knowledgeable staff, and increase customer satisfaction through improved partnerships resulting in competitive advantage.

Chief executive’s message

In his message on the occasion of the 57th anniversary, the Chief Executive of the VRA, Mr Emmanuel Antwi-Darkwa, said 57 years in the history of an organisation provided not only an opportunity to celebrate, but an occasion for introspection, and most importantly, to chart a new course to ensure that “we remain relevant, competitive and well positioned to power the future of the socio-economic development of our country”.

“I agree with Albert Einstein and Scot (2009) that, ‘…You cannot continue doing things the same way if you want different results.’ This demands that we change from our seemingly lethargic posture to a more responsive, agile and efficient business entity. This is critical because we cannot compete with the private sector when we are deeply seated in our public sector mindset. The time for change is now,” Mr Antwi-Darkwa emphasised.

He stated that in the coming months, the VRA would embark on a reorganisation, restructuring and refocusing of its business philosophy based on objectives which sit in the acronym ‘BRAISE’.

The acronym, he explained, stands for: Build, nurture and develop VRA’s human capital, Restore VRA’s finances, Advance internal and external business processes, Improve operational  and project implementation efficiencies, Sustain VRA’s position as market leader and Ensure development in a sustainable manner.

 He urged the employees to show commitment and dedication to achieve the BRAISE objectives by discharging their duties with diligence and a sense of purpose.

Mr Antwi-Darkwa further charged the staff to adopt the right attitude “to recreate and rebrand our operations into the ‘new VRA’ to ensure that we keep the lights on for the good people of Ghana as we add value to their lives”.

He commended the staff - both past and current - for their sacrifices and the concerted effort which had projected the VRA brand as a model of excellence in Sub-Saharan Africa.    

 

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