When Ghana was faced with persistent power shortages in 2015, forcing it to undergo severe electricity rationing, the government took swift action to deal with the situation.
Within five years, it was able to raise the power generation capacity to almost double the needed demand, putting the country in a position to become a power exporting hub in West Africa.
Ghana’s currently exports power to Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Togo, but to successfully become a power exporting hub in the region, the country must first address some gaps in its own transmission network.
While more than 82 per cent of the country has access to electricity, making Ghana one of the top countries in Africa in terms of electrification, there are still some rural parts that have no access to the national grid. Villagers in those areas still resort to kerosene lamps for light and generators for electricity.
This is something that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has promised to address in his ambitious strategy to transform the country, both socially and economically, while driving Ghana to become a sustainable and industrialised nation.
Access to electricity is a basic right for all Ghanaians and in order to fulfill the country’s vision for a better life and stable power to its citizens, Ghana must upgrade its transmission network.
The country of 31 million people has already successfully demonstrated that with political will and the right partnerships it can achieve its goals.
Building strong networks
Just as the West African nation has invested significantly in its generation capacity, raising it to more than 19,500 GWh from around 10 GWh 10 years ago, it must now move on to build reliable, affordable and sustainable electric networks for the country and its people to benefit from this added power generation.
That step is also critical for the country’s export ambitions because, in order to export power, Ghana must have strong, stable and reliable networks on which to transmit that excess power.
The country has approximately 5,900 km of transmission lines that connect its power generation facilities to its national grid.
It aims to strengthen its current network by adding 10 substations and several bulk supply points throughout the county by the end of the year.
Building additional substations is one part of the solution that will connect rural areas to the grid’ but applying some of the latest technologies in bulk supply points and monitoring can help the country achieve its goals faster by reinforcing the stability of the grid, addressing power losses in transmission lines as well as improving the quality of energy that is flowing through its networks.
One tried and tested technology that helps stabilise grids is the Static Synchronous Compensator (STATCOM) solution, which is a grid stabilising technology that regulates the transmission variations automatically, according to the grid conditions.
The outcome of applying such technology would result in more stable power grid and voltages reaching the consumers.
Siemens Energy is already implementing this solution at one substation in Kasoa, which is currently under construction, on the outskirts of Accra.
Approximately two-thirds of the globally installed STATCOM systems with modular multilevel converter technology are from Siemens Energy.
Another way to upgrade Ghana’s power network and help it become more reliable is through digitalising its grids.
Sensors can be applied to the power networks that will provide a better overview, highlight the weaknesses and any potential challenges on the network so that they can be addressed ahead of time.
Digitising the grid through the application of sensors will result in better decision making, prevent sudden shutdowns and enable quick responses to any malfunction, minimising power outages.
There are many solutions to digitise the grid. One particularly impressive, cutting-edge digital technology that has proven very useful in the post COVID-19 era is the multisensory artificial intelligence system, (SIAERO).
SIAERO uses a three-dimensional (3D) camera system that allows a faster, more accurate and complete inspection of energy transmission systems and direct integration of the results into the customers’ asset management solutions.
Usually, inspectors need to fly to the power lines to inspect it themselves and note down every abnormality by hand.
It takes four years to cover a 3,000 km line but by applying SIAERO that time is cut down to only two weeks.
The technologies we use to help stabilise the grid and improve its resiliency will better position Ghana as a regional power exporting hub.
Last year, Siemens signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ghana to address the country’s energy and infrastructure challenges, while contributing to the government’s growth and development agenda of creating high quality jobs and enhancing the vocational skills of Ghana’s youth.
Stakeholders in the power sector have already seen the MoU result in some tangible projects that will improve the country’s network.
It is the hope of the sector to see more projects come to life in the near future to make Ghana a regional power exporting hub.
The writer is an energy expert and Managing Director of Siemens Ghana.