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20.07.2021 Feature Article

So Where Are The "Standby Generators"?

So Where Are The
LISTEN JUL 20, 2021

The people of this country are taken so much for granted in this country that it is quite unbelievable!

In the past week alone, one estate I know of has experienced so many power interruptions that the residents have stopped counting them.

Friday night.

Saturday night.

Monday morning.

Monday morning?

Yes, yes, yes!

Now, I am sure that the Ghana power authorities – ALL TWO TOUSAND OF THEM! – are on their toes, trying to cope with the ever-increasing demand facing them, on account of our growing population and our steadily expanding business capability.

But “two thousand authorities”?

Well, that's what it looks like from the power consumer's point of view!

Because it's hard to believe that if a SINGLE body were responsible for providing us with power, it would need to interrupt the power supply so often!

I mean, if a single power authority undertakes a maintenance or expansion programme, one would logically to expect that authority to stick to the task until it had finished it. And that when it said it had completed the task, it would stay completed.

Right now, what appears to be the case is that work on the supply of power is commissioned; it appears completed, but then the engineers not go-and-come back-go-and-come-back-and-go-and-come-back to it! Again-and-again-and again, in order to interrupt the power supply in order to restore it to “normality”, only for it to be interrupted again.

And we can never tell whether it's those who generate power for us from (a) Akosombo (b) Bui (c) or

the Sekondi-Takoradi thermal plant (my Internet is gone as I write so I can't look up its proper nomenclature!) or whoever-whatever that is responsible for the current interruption, or the power distribution authority!

But does it matter who is responsible? The sad reality is that – again – there is no power as I write. I know that my erudite friend, “NAPO” (the Minister for Energy) was quoted as saying that “there is no more “dumsↄ” in Ghana”.)

But the current situation, as far as filifili evidence shows, is that we have what might be termed “no-dumsↄ-dumsↄ” in operation!

So, Honourable Minister, please don't accept what your officials say but look into the matter. Are any of the “authorities” unable to fulfil their duties, and if so why?

Are they able to shrug criticism off and say, “Well, the Volta River Authority” fellows said they would finish their part of the work in so-many weeks, but it's now four-months and they haven't finished it because they say relief or support that Bui was expected to deliver didn't materialise and meanwhile, the Sekondi-Takoradi unit couldn't make up for the losses from the big guys because the letters of credit.... blah blah sent to pay for liquid gas...”.?

Honourable Minister, your fellow countrymen are not interested in any “turf wars” that may be taking place regarding the supply of power to the populace! When the Volta River Authority was the only entity responsible for supplying us with power, we knew whom to call if an interruption occurred. In fact, apart from the calamitous situation caused by the 1983-85 drought, their performance was creditable.

Now, the oft-quoted wisdom in the technological world is: “If it ain't broke, don't fix it!”

So who was the smart-alec who ignored the “Peter Principle” and came up the idea that since “Small is Beautiful”, it would be more efficient to break up the power sector into smaller units?#

I am sure he quoted the cliché which says that each newly autonomous component would seek to “brighten the corner where it was” and that everything would be smooth from then on!

Haha! We were sold snake oil. Instead of incurring a single head of expenditure in respect of “overheads”, we now have a complete set of overheads for each body involved in our power-supply industry. And much of the money that should go into procuring equipment and spare parts, goes into employees' pockets.

For each body has its own over-bloated management structure and the “compensation” that goes with it. “Equity” suggests that all the top salaries should be are “calibrated”, in order to eliminate “destructive jealousy”!

But when it comes to performance, each body shows that it possesses its own “business culture.”

And each strives to cultivate its own special relationship with the Ministry of Power and/or the Central Government.

So each negotiates its own contracts regarding equipment requirements (thereby losing the discounts that larger-sized purchases could have attracted.) Indeed, when word spread that contracts are mooted, “contact” men suddenly swoop on the scene. Each tries to outbid others, not with lower pricesbut with politicalclout!

On the contrary, prices rise, and accusations become rife, leading to enquiries about why the prices are so different! Followed by enquiriesinto enquiries, all to no appreciable purpose.

Meanwhile, any improved performance that the slick sellers of “decentralisation” had led us to expect, is completely forgotten about.

And we have what the witty residents of affluent estates dub as “Weekend in Dumsↄland”.

Others greet the arrival of darkness with cries of “Welcome to NEPA!” This is an allusion to the situation that used to prevail in Nigeria years ago, when that country's power authority, the Nigerian Electric Power Authority, was mockingly renamed “Never Any Power At All” – to the amusement of the populace.

When, will we, in our turn, stop asking plaintively: “Is the light back at your end?”

“ How can you tell, at 10 p.m., who has just switched you off?”

“Especially, when your mobile phone say “No Network” on the screen and so you can't phone anyone?

“Or when the phones orders you to “connect charger?”

Whenever versions of the above ruminations occurs, the question arises: “But what would you do, if you were in charge?”

The simple answer is: “Have you not heard of “Standby Power Supply Systems?”

The retort is often this: “Listen, even if our estate could levy money to install a “Standby Power System”, the charge for the fuel would create suspicion that someone was milking the residents, wouldn't it? Do you thin everyone would readily agree to the size of, say, a monthly surcharge for fuel?”

I can hear that suggestion being laughed out of court.

Okay, then: what if the Government were to increase the charge for electricity by about 1 percent and used the revenue to install individual “standby” power plants in each neighbourhood of say, a million or half a million people. (This is greeted with howls of laughter:. “The Government would find its own use for the money!” someone offers. “And darkness would remain!”

So, households that can afford it, are forced to buy their own generators. But that only spreads antagonism: “Where at all did you buy your generator? Are you sure it was a new one? Because it does make such a racket.”

Or: “Chale, I can't sleep a wink when your generator is on!”

Or: “I get a head-ache whenever your generator is on!”

Oh well! Who said life wass easy anywhere – in the 21stcentury?

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