Ghana must find affordable ways to power the economy

By 27th February 2017Ghana

Ghana’s power supply is notoriously unreliable, with households and businesses regularly plunged into darkness without warning. This has been hugely damaging for the Ghanaian economy and is costing the country over $600 million a year in lost jobs and failed businesses.

Patrick Asare is a Ghana-born energy expert based in the US. We wanted to share his latest article about how Ghana can solve its job-destroying power shortages.

The goal in Ghana, he writes:

“…Must be to find affordable ways to provide electricity to power the economy and provide jobs for the millions of unemployed and under-employed youth.

However, Asare is sharply critical of the idea that solar panels can fix the problem:

“Wherever one turns these days, there is talk that the sun’s energy is free, and that African countries could rely solely on it for all of their electric power needs. In theory, every natural resource is free, until it comes time to harness it.”

Remember, you can’t use solar power at night (when electricity is needed most), so you have to find a way of storing it during the day. Commercially viable storage technology doesn’t yet exist even in Western countries, so it’s clearly not the solution for Ghana.

Instead, Asare says that Ghana needs a sensible mix of fuels.

“Any properly designed electricity grid should have a well-diversified mix of fuels for power generation.”

For Asare, that means getting on and building new power plants, using the low-cost conventional fuels which can operate round the clock. He says that a “single 1,000-megawatt plant would dramatically improve the country’s economic prospects”.

And here’s why it matters.

“For many of the poor and most vulnerable citizens in Ghana, [the] chronic power shortage is not merely an inconvenience; it is something that threatens their very existence. We should worry about their plight, and adopt the quickest and most cost-effective ways to bring about an improvement in the situation, and thereby relieve some of their misery.”

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