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Slow pace of universal access to electricity worrying— Parliament

By: Emmanuel Bruce
Category:
John Peter Amewu — Minister of Energy
John Peter Amewu — Minister of Energy

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy has expressed worry over the slow pace at which the Ministry of Energy is working towards the delivery of universal access to electricity by every household in the country by 2020.

The committee has, therefore, urged the ministry to find other innovative strategies and new funding mechanisms in order to meet the 2020 target.
This was contained in its report on the 2019 budget estimates of the Ministry of Energy.

In 2018, only 122 out of the targeted 1,796 communities were connected to the national grid, putting the current national electricity access rate at 84.3 per cent up from 83.62 per cent in 2017.

The ministry, when it appeared before the committee, attributed the under-performance to unavailability of key materials, procurement challenges and insufficient budgetary allocations.

As part of measures to accelerate the pace, the ministry indicated that it planned to use electrical conductors and cables, exclusively from local manufacturing companies.

This measure, according to them, would also support the local manufacturing industry and boost employment.

Ensuring
availability of gas
The committee further observed that the ministry had programmed to complete outstanding works on the interconnection of Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC) and the West African Pipeline Company (WAPCo) pipeline systems as a measure to supply stranded gas in the west for power generation in the east.

The committee was informed that the terminal valve of the GNGC pipeline had been extended to the West African Pipeline Company fence awaiting tie-in.

The project, which is expected to be completed within the first quarter of the year, would ensure reliable gas supply for power generation at the eastern power corridor and also enable the government to meet its obligations under the gas sales agreement with ENI.

Competitiveness
of VALCO
The committee, however, commended the ministry for ensuring that an additional 75MW of power was supplied to the Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO) at a competitive price of US$0.035/kWh which enabled the company to expand production from the current one pot lines to two pot lines.

According to the ministry, the intervention had resulted in the employment of 180 direct personnel and 900 indirect personnel in the downstream and allied industries respectively.

The ministry also indicated that the two pot lines when fully operational by the first quarter of 2019 would increase output from 40,000 to 80,000 tons with expected revenue generation of US$160 million.

In line with the government’s vision for an integrated aluminum industry, VALCO plans to embark on smelter technology upgrade and undergo restructuring to bring private sector participation in the ownership and operation of the company.

The committee urged the ministry to explore power supply options such as dedicating portions of the country’s hydro-power supply to competitively operate all the five points.

Renewable energy
The committee noted that as part of government’s strategy to increase the proportion of renewable energy in the national energy generation mix from the current level of 38MW to 2264.63MW by 2030.

To reduce the dependence on biomass as the main fuel for thermal energy applications, the ministry plans to procure 100,000 units of solar lanterns for distribution in remote islands, extend the solar rooftop programme to most public institutions and undertake feasibility studies to pave the way for the installation of additional 55 mini-grids for remote islands and off-grid communities.

The committee urged the ministry to expedite action on the completion and implementation of the renewable energy master plan to attract private investments.