Ghana: VRA, Partners Face Setbacks

THE CHIEF Executive Officer of the Volta River Authority (VRA), Mr. Kweku Awotwi, has said that unforeseen incidents have arisen, that hampers the smooth provision of power supply, although the Authority and its partners are likely to end the nation-wide load shedding as planned.

According to him, the repair of the West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAPCo) was completed and at the stage of drying the pipe line to prepare it to receive gas, "Unfortunately, just last week, as that exercise was drawing to conclusion, there was an accident."

He said as the pressure was being pushed through the pipe at the Aboadze end, two workers of the WAPCo were hit by the pipe. "One died instantly and the other died on the way to the hospital. So basically work was stopped and is yet to resume sometime next week."

In view of this, "We have experienced one week delay because of this", he noted and added that expectation from the WAPCo was still based on probabilities.

However, the general expectation is that gas would be available by late November or early December, then the Sunon Asogli plant, which runs only on gas, would begin to work again, he stated.

He observed that the unavailability of gas to power the Sunon Asogli plant was one of the major deficits in the system, and once it starts to work, it would produce about 200 megawatts (MW) for use.

Mr. Awotwi was addressing journalists at a news conference in Accra, last week Thursday, to brief them on the power situation in the country.

Another development that he mentioned was the inability of their crude oil suppliers in Nigeria to meet Ghana's demand for the product because of their own needs. This has caused a shortage of crude oil to power the Authority's plants as needed.

According to him, "Ordinarily, it may not pose a problem but today when we are running all our units and there is not enough gas, what it means is that we are using a lot of crude oil, we are doing a lot of shipment of crude oil and if there is a delay, it means we have to ration the crude oil so that we don't run out."

This, he indicated, was affecting all their partners in the supply of electricity, such that the CENIT plant owned by the Social Security National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) was yet to function. The plant is, however, expected to receive its own parcel of crude by mid-November to run base load of 100 MW.

The VRA CEO lamented that "We have gone from a situation where we use to buy one cargo of crude for three months to one, where we buy one every twenty days and each cargo is $50.000.000."

He pointed out that the financial impact was quite huge, and VRA has paid as much as it could, but could pay more "if we had a higher tariff. If we don't get the higher tariff it means the government has to come in."

Currently, the total available capacity is 1601 MW, with peak demand at 1705MW. This leaves a deficit of 104MW. However, additional generation from the Takoradi 3 (T3), currently running at 21MW is expected to ramp up to 80MW by the end of November, and together with CENIT produce 204MW by the end of the year.

The Director of Procurement at the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Mr. Robert Dwamena said ECG is supposed to shed between zero to 230MW during off-peak and zero to 300MW at peak period, depending on instructions from GRIDCO.

He noted that industrial customers who have dedicated feeders are not affected by the load shedding because they have to be able to work to continue to give employment to those who work in the industry.

Also, priority customers such security services, major health centers and other sensitive institutions are exempted from the exercise. However, industrial customers who are embedded in the residential network are included in the exercise, together with residential areas.

"Due to the exclusion of industry and priority customers, residential and non-residential customers are cut off for longer duration periods, and by a wide area to achieve the required load", he explained.

According to him, the load shedding impacts negatively on the company because it causes a weakening of their major network assets, such as switch gears and transformers, due to frequent switching.

"These equipment are not designed to be switched on and off like we are doing currently", hence would cause a fast aging of the network assets.

He expressed worry that the company would need heavy investment to replace these networks, adding "the frequent network operations also affect the reliability, availability and quality of electricity supplied."

He said at the distribution end, ECG has the responsibility of managing the load shedding and though there were challenges, they would continue to collaborate with its partners to achieve load reductions as directed by GRIDCO.

Altogether, the power generation companies said in spite of unplanned outages due to unit trips from generation and transmission as well as faults in transmission and distribution network, they expect that normal supply of power would be restored by December.

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