'Let's establish single national power authority' - Wereko Brobby tells govt

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

“My fear is that we are heading down the same path we have travelled for much of the last 30 years of power challenges unless we adopt and more importantly, implement a fundamental rethinking of how we ensure that there is adequate, ample, reliable and good quality supply of electricity at all times in the foreseeable future to power Ghana’s socio-economic development as befits our middle-income status,” he noted.

He therefore stressed the need for the nation to move away from political talk and take immediate and pragmatic steps to redeem the country from darkness to perpetual illumination.

To that end, he said there was the need to “turn the political talk of a 5000 MW generation capacity into reality by the start of 2017 by inviting and contracting independent power producers (IPPs) to build the new capacities devoid of any more public investments”.

“The capability for strategic planning, demand forecasting, system infrastructure additions and improvements in operating efficiencies and reliability should be highlighted and given specialist treatment within the proposed power authority,” he said.

The GIPPO Inaugural Lectures which focus on critical national issues, are designed to commemorate the 60th birthday of Dr Wereko-Brobby and 25 years of his active service in the country’s energy sector and public life.

The aim is to share and reflect on his experiences, draw the lessons from and the consequences for himself and the country, and make suggestions for the future.

The topic for the second in the series of the lectures was: “Darkness begets darkness: Shedding load to power Ghana’s development”.

Dr Wereko-Brobby said there was the need for Ghana to examine other partnerships with IPPs for the expansion of the transmission capacity to improve carrying capacity and quality. “The model used to get NEWMONT to fund the line to their mine and even the use of internally generated funds as was used for the Prestea-Obuasi line should be explored. The over-reliance on donor support, with its inordinately long lead times, must be discouraged,” he said.

Recalling the early days of his stint as the Volta River Authority (VRA)  Chief Executive Officer, Dr Wereko-Brobby said the continued drop in the water level of the Volta Lake at that time meant a power crisis was imminent unless adequate measures were put in place to forestall it.

He said the requirement was to move away from the traditional solution of telling consumers when they would not be able to run their business or have to sleep in darkness, but to do whatever it took to ensure that power was available at all times to consumers.

He said the intervention focused on two principal actions: First, to use the country’s resources to build the Prestea-Obuasi transmission line, which had laid fallow for nearly 15 years, and second, to get additional sources of power to create more room to deal with the imminent shortfall.

“Actions were successfully carried out, and for the first time in VRA’s history, our engineers actually managed a major infrastructure project and the Prestea–Obuasi line was built on time and to budget”, he said.

Dr Wereko-Brobby addressed the causes of the energy crisis under what he termed as four main pillars, namely, darkness of knowledge, darkness of policy, darkness of operations and darkness of oversight.

He identified some of the energy challenges facing the nation as over-reliance on hydro for power supply, inadequate supply of modern energy forms of electricity and petroleum products, and over-dependence on wood fuels in context of deteriorating forest cover and creeping climate and environment problems.

Others are spending the substantial proportion of the country’s foreign exchange earnings on importing oil, unequal access to and mal-distribution of energy resources to all parts of the country, and pitiable investment in the sector to improve and increase infrastructure for supply, distribution and use.

Dr Wereko-Brobby said what the nation ought to learn from the past is that “the end of ‘dum so dum so’ must mark the start of a sustained, logical and above all, implemented action plan aimed at banishing ‘dum so dum so’ forever”.

Story by Kofi Yeboah

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