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Ghana: Parliament queries officials over electricity crisis.

Parliament Select Committee on Mines and Energy yesterday summoned officials of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Volta River Authority (VRA), GRIDCO and the Energy Commission over the current power crisis that has hit the country.
Senior officials of the four electricity providers had a hectic time in the over four-hour grilling by members of the committee on challenges in the energy sector and how these difficulties were being tackled. The providers and the committee met behind closed doors.
The parliamentary committee is chaired by Dr. Kwabena Donkor, with K.T. Hammond as the ranking member or the minority spokesperson on energy.
The marathon meeting was necessitated by the increasing impact of load-shedding by ECG, VRA and GridCo on electricity consumers, a worrying phenomenon that is gradually collapsing businesses in the country.
There had been blame games amongst these power providers, with each of them trying frantically to extricate itself from the current challenges in the energy sector.
The three power providers play complementary roles in the energy sector in which VRA generates electricity for GridCo to transmit, with ECG handling the distribution part.
The energy situation in the country has become so bad that while addressing the 56th independence parade, President John Dramani Mahama acknowledged it had reached a crisis level, needing serious attention.
The officials, DAILY GUIDE learnt, answered questions from the committee on challenges faced by the power providers including lack of inadequate funding and resource allocation from government.
Presentations made to the parliamentary committee, whose copies were made available to the paper, indicated that all the power providers faced serious challenges.
Giving a background to the energy situation, officials of VRA indicated that the disruption in gas supply from Nigeria, resulting from the damage to the West African Gas Pipeline, caused generation deficit of about 200 MW.
This, according to the authority, necessitated frequent load-shedding since August 2012, pointing out the situation was aggravated by planned maintenance and forced outages.
VRA officials told the committee that prior to the damage of the gas pipeline, reserve margin was inadequate, resulting in intermittent load-shedding in the event of a planned or unplanned outage of a major unit.
Status of Generating Units/Plants
Current energy generating plants, VRA mentioned, included Akosombo, Kpong, TAPCO (T1), TICO (T2), Takoradi 3, TT1PP, TT2PP, MRP, CENIT and SAPP, all with a combined installed capacity of 2,411.5MW and dependable capacity of 2,155MW.
However, the total available capacity at peak is 1,634 MW, which is below the nation’s peak demand of 1,765 MW.
The maximum load shed so far from January to March 4, 2013 was 460MW with an estimated deficit of about 200 MW which, according to VRA official, changed depending on the status of generating units.
According to them, load relief was currently obtained from ECG, Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO), Northern Electricity Development Company (NEDCO) and CEB.
VRA Challenges
According to VRA officials, it cost the authority close to $3 million a day to run its thermal plants using light crude oil (LCO).
According to them, this was double the cost of using thermal gas.
Furthermore, a cargo of LCO was used for thermal generation every 20 days at a cost of about $55 million.
Giving more figures, they indicated that from September to December 2012, a total of about $340 million or six cargoes were used to generate thermal power, using LCO.
Government, they said, intervened by purchasing five cargoes of crude oil.
“For first quarter of 2013, VRA expects to purchase six cargoes of LCO, about $340million to power available thermal plants. Government has purchased three cargoes of LCO to help the situation,” VRA officials hinted.
Tariffs
The VRA officials want major tariff reviews to be carried out every two years, with quarterly adjustments, to account for changing crude oil prices and currency fluctuation among others.
They argued that considering the volumes of crude oil VRA purchased, a small change in the price of crude oil could result in a huge disparity in their income and expenditure.
“For example, $1 increase in crude oil price could lead to a cost increase of between 1-3 million dollars in a quarter. This trend has adversely affected VRA’s balance sheet and ability to fund or attract for our expansion project,” they lamented.