With economic expansion and a booming population, the demand for energy in Ghana is far higher than current capacity. Now a new report from engineering experts at Brunel University London and the University of Education, Winneba, could shape conversation on the cheapest and greenest energy solutions for the decades ahead.
According to Energy Commission Ghana’s most recent (2015) report, inadequate expansion in energy production means that only 65% of demand is being met.
Yet 23% of the country’s total generation is currently lost during transmission and distribution. Some 70% of that 23% is due to theft, meter-tampering, and non-payment of bills.
Writing in the journal Cogent Engineering, researchers Albert Awopone, Ahmed Zobaa and Walter Banuenumah say that decisions concerning the best choice of technologies for future years will avoid expensive changes later on.
While Ghana’s grid was previously powered solely by water following the building of the Akosombo hydro dam in 1966, thermal power generation was introduced in 1997 after a period of severe drought.
Ghana is gradually shifting to predominantly fossil-fuelled generation, despite the adverse environmental impact and societal impact of rising and falling fossil fuel prices on the world market. Today, the country’s power is 55% hydro generated, and 44% thermal, with an additional small percentage of power created by solar panels.
But, the research team explain, Ghana is endowed with a number of clean energy technologies which can and should be better exploited to meet its energy requirement, including excellent solar radiation of 5 kWh/m², as well as favourable sites for wind and small to medium hydro power.
They note that despite Ghana’s government establishing an Energy Commission, there has been a general lack of research on the future development of generation. The Commission’s own study only projected the energy system up to 2020, based on factors from the year 2000, and did not fully assess the environmental impact of future paths.
After examining a number of generation options, the researchers conclude that the adoption of strict polices aimed at cutting energy waste in transmission and distribution will lead to a huge reduction in demand.
While fossil fuel reliance will remain integral, it should be possible for over 70% of the country’s generation to be produced by renewable sources by 2040, the team conclude. With less reliance on fossil fuels, and their associated price shocks, the emission of harmful greenhouse gases would significantly reduce.
The report recommends:
- The government introduces efficiency strategies such as the replacement of incandescent bulbs, and changes to refrigeration and air-con standards. These policies have been very successful in other countries, including the UK, US, and India.
- Improvement in the billing system and metering of all government and public buildings.
- The introduction of an industry carbon tax. Mainly affecting the cost of production at thermal plants, it would lead to renewable energy sources becoming more attractive to investors.
- The phasing out of government subsidies for fuel, occurring gradually while renewable sources expand.
Assessment of Optimal Pathways for Power Generation System in Ghana will be published in Cogent Engineering on 19 April. An online preview was published on 4 April.
(Image: Akosombo Dam from the Volta Hotel, 2007, photograph by Allison Stillwell via Wikimedia Commons)
Sarah Cox - Senior Media Relations Officer, Media Relations