27 October 2015: Ghana is a renewables pioneer, but is still not doing enough.

Melody Waterworth

IMG_3641Hello, my name is Melody Waterworth, I’m 19, English and currently in Tamale, northern Ghana. I’m volunteering with International Service, a charity which partners with a UK government scheme. I arrived on 19 September 2015 and am leaving on the 12 December 2015.

While in England, I researched renewable energy and green enterprises here in Ghana to get an idea of what I would be writing about. On the surface it looked incredible! Almost 75% of electricity from renewables energy, mainly hydro. Some geothermal, solar and wind. Fossil fuels produce the other 25%. And lots of bioenergy, for heating and cooking. (See Ghana – climate and energy statistics)

Ghana will soon have Africa’s largest, and the world’s fourth largest, solar plant. To be completed by end of this year. It will be able to provide electricity to more than 100,000 homes. With 630,000 solar PV modules, the 155 megawatt plant intends to increase Ghana’s electricity generating capacity by 6%. They use concentrated solar power, photovoltaic (PV) technology to convert sunlight directly into electricity. The solar plant is being constructed by Blue Energy, a UK-based renewable energy investment company.

It is the official goal of Ghana’s energy industry to have 10% of Ghana’s electricity mix come from renewable sources, (not counting large-scale hydropower) by 2020. The new solar power plant contributes a fifth of this goal.

On the surface Ghana looks like it is pioneering renewable energy for Africa. But it’s still not enough: there are large power shortages. The in-country volunteers tell me that Ghana sells lots of the electricity it generates to neighbouring countries, such as Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso. So many homes and offices in Ghana are subject to regular and often timetabled power outages. Where I’m staying, there is no power one day in every four. In some more southern parts of the country, where the demand for power is higher, it can be as bad as 36 hours without power to 12 hours with. That’s not to mention the many rural areas where communities have no power whatsoever. It is estimated that only approximately 72% of the Ghanaian population has access to electricity.

The main power generation company in Ghana is the government-owned Volta River authority (VRA). VRA is planning to add about 1,000 MW of generation capacity over the next five years. This includes upgrade of simple cycle gas plants to combined cycle, to reduce cost of supply. They also intend to pursue more solar and wind energy projects.

Serious power shortages are holding the country’s economic growth back substantially. Problems they face include an inadequate generation capacity reserve and the lack of gas supply, which limits thermal generation. (VRA is pursuing the use of Liquefied Natural Gas to generate electricity as a measure to secure future gas supply reliability.)

I will go into more details about these sources of energy in Ghana in my next post for. I’ll also include opinions of Ghanaians. I also intend to go in to other environmental issues that I sense is making the country a much less environmentally friendly country than it should be with the impressively high figure of renewables.

I am going to Lake Volta soon and I hope to get more of an insight into the operations of the impressive scale hydro power.

References – River Authority: VRA Profile

Blue Energy: Africa’s largest solar (PV) power plant

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1 Comment

  1. Well done ..i. I admire the research u are doing.

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