The quest to achieve reliable electricity supply and hence end load shedding cannot be realised before 2015, independent analysts of energy policy options have stated.
"We took notice of the promise by our president [John Dramani Mahama] that load shedding will end in 2013. Whilst this is commendable, we think that this should be backed by good analysis and technical advice," the analysts emphasised as they launched their organisation, the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), in Accra on Wednesday.
According to ACEP, it has carried out a combination of analyses - data analysis, demand analysis and demand forecasting - using various supply scenarios and can conclude that even if all the thermal plants being put together were to come on stream by 2013, there will not be enough fuel (gas) to power all of them beyond 2013.
Besides, a forecast by the Ghana Meteorological Agency (G-Met) concerning the pattern of rainfall by close of 2012 could mean a drop in water level of the Akosombo Dam, raising uncertainties around hydro power generation, Mohammed Amin Adam, Executive Director of ACEP, told journalists on Wednesday.
ACEP's expression of scepticism follows an assurance by President John Mahama last week that "...in my next term, there will be no more load shedding."
The President, who was giving highlights of the National Democratic Congress' manifesto for the 2012 general elections, explained: "I say this because we have established the foundation to be able to achieve that promise. We currently produce a little over 2000 megawatts, and we hope to add 350 by the end of the year, another 700 next year, which will make us a net exporter of power."
Ghana generates electricity from a hydro-thermal mix with the base load (about 55% of electricity generation) coming from the Akosombo and Kpong hydro plants. A third hydro plant, Bui, is still under construction. In the thermal field, dual plants exist for generating electricity from crude and gas sources but in more recent times there has been a reliance on gas because it is a cheaper option.
But generation at the Aboadze thermal plant as well as the Sunon Asogli thermal plant has been affected by the supply shutdown by the West Africa Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCo), occasioned by destruction of portions of the Togo-Ghana section of the pipeline by a vessel on the coast of Lome, Togo, on August 28.
A couple of weeks ago, WAPCo ruled out the possibility of resuming gas supplies before the close of 2012 (see October 1, 2012 edition of Public Agenda). Mr Charles Adeniji, WAPCo's Managing Director, told journalists in Accra that: "Our current expectation today is that...there is a 10 per cent probability that we will finish the repairs by the end of October. There is a 50 per cent probability that we will finish the repairs by the end of November. There is a 90 per cent probability that we will finish by the end of December...definitely we will commence operations before December 25."
Almost immediately, Inusah Fuseini, a Deputy Minister of Energy, rebutted, saying the load shedding would end by November because government had put in place contingencies. He was followed by President Mahama who also assured last week in Ho that there was end in sight for the load shedding.
But Mr Amin Adam and ACEP argued that much as it was a fact that new plants were being installed, installations would not by themselves ensure reliability in the face of the uncertainties surrounding the current hydro-thermal mix sources.
The current power crisis has been described as the first major crisis occasioned by gas shortage. The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has indicated in its load shedding schedules that it "has been compelled to undertake Emergency Load Shedding due to Reduced Generation Capacity as a result of unavailability of Gas from West Africa Gas Pipeline Company."
ACEP's analysis shows that "The current demand [of gas] is between 180-200 mmscfd [million standard cubic feet per day]."
But "With the number of thermal power plants currently installed and expected to be in operation by 2015, the local demand is expected to ramp up to 280-300 mmscfd by 2015." Therefore, "With average monthly WAGP West Africa Gas Pipeline supply of 105 mmscfd and Jubilee expected gas supply of 100mmscfd, total supply falls short of minimum demand beyond 2013."
But if the country were to prioritise waste-to-energy options, the situation could be ameliorated. Otherwise, the best case scenario will be 2017 when oil production begins in the Sankofa-1 field, which holds large reserves of gas, ACEP opines.
Dr Joe Asamoah captures in his book "The Global Oil & Gas Bonanza: Africa's Share" (2011) that the Sankofa-1 well was jointly drilled by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation and Vitol Upstream Ghana Limited and has a "Net hydrocarbon pay" of 36.3 million. This is made up of 33.2 million barrels (oil equivalent) of gas and 3.2 million barrels of oil reserves.
Against this background, Mr Amin Adam cautions politicians against making political capital out of load shedding.
Rather, the nation should begin looking at ways of managing demand to conserve energy. This can be done by expanding initiatives on appliance efficiency.